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The Work That Made Me: Sherine Kazim

Wunderman Thompson North America's chief experience officer on why she can't get behind 'maximalism' and why she's jealous of OK Go's 'This Too Shall Pass'

The Work That Made Me: Sherine Kazim

Sherine Kazim is the chief experience officer of Wunderman Thompson’s North American offices, defining the vision for the customer experience practice. She is responsible for designing innovative products, services, environments, and communications within digital, physical, and invisible realms.

Throughout her 20+ year career, Sherine has built, scaled, and led high-impact, multifaceted design teams for Fortune 500 companies, agencies, foundations, and startups. Her passion for reinvention has driven her to create groundbreaking, human-centered experiences for clients such as Verizon, LG, Walmart, Electronic Arts, and the upcoming Obama Presidential Center Museum. 

Prior to joining Wunderman Thompson, Sherine was the global managing director, experiences at Huge, and creative director at AKQA NY. She has also held design leadership positions at Electronic Arts, Friendster, and Walmart.com.

Sherine’s breakthrough work has earned her many accolades over the years at tier 1 award shows. She is a frequent speaker at industry events and has lectured at leading design colleges. Passionate about protecting human interests, Sherine is Advisor to the tech ethics think tank, All Tech Is Human.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey”. It was moody, dark, uncomfortable – pretty much the opposite of every other candy-coated '80s video on MTV. 

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

For me, it was a place – or several places, to be exact. While I was at college at Boston University, I worked at a few nightclubs on Lansdowne Street. I did everything from working the door to creating the fliers to designing the interiors. It was the first time I started to understand how to create an end-to-end brand experience from scratch - from the music, to the décor, to the fliers, to the VIPs you let past the velvet rope. Looking back, we were essentially creating micro ecosystems – a different one every night depending on the theme. Being able to see people immersed and enjoying it in real time, was awesome. From that moment on, I made it my mission to cross every boundary across products, services and environments in order to create the best possible experience for all.

The creative work (film/album/game/ad/album/book/poem etc) that I keep revisiting…

Janet Echleman and Aaron Koblin collaborated on an interactive sculpture called “Unnumbered Sparks” way back in 2014. I still can’t get it out of my head today. It’s a graceful integration of digital technology and physical artifact. 

My first professional project…

When I was in college, my brother Alex worked at Apple and he asked me to design a logo for his engineering group. I did it and, even though I’m sure it never saw the light of day, I got $200 which was huge back then. Not sure what I did with the money, but I suspect there was a new FreshJive shirt in the mix.

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

I’m a minimalist to the core and the maximalism movement is something I just can’t get behind. In the last year, I’ve seen too many articles about it being the next big thing in design from interiors to fashion. For me, this feels counter intuitive – an inaccurate reflection of our current reality. The way I see it, our whole world’s been thrown into chaos so why add epic amounts of visual noise into the mix? It’s a contrarian way of forcing a movement and design should never feel forced.

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that still makes me jealous…

OK Go’s Rube Goldberg machine in “This Too Shall Pass”. It looks super homemade and deceptively simple. There’s just so much physics and construction behind that piece which makes it incredibly impressive. 

The creative project that changed my career…

Designing an interactive TV interface for Philips Labs back in the '90s. No touchscreen back then so everything was controlled with a single button remote which seems ordinary now but back then, there were limitations to the form factor, the software, and the color palette. Plus there were no “best practices” to rely on so I was designing and testing by bumping into walls hoping that I’d hit the mark. I think about that project all the time. It was freeing for a young designer and it changed the way I looked future-vision projects forever. It taught me that (1) it’s ok to operate in vague circumstances, and (2) the best experiences are created through collaboration with a tiny multifaceted team allowing them to have maximum control over the outcome. It sounds obvious now, right? And yet, we still see large, siloed design teams creating artifacts independently of each other, hoping a logo, a color palette, a design system, or single executive review will unify the brand experience. 

The work that I’m proudest of…

The earliest part of my digital career was spent as a graphical user interface designer in the Silicon Valley. I created interfaces and bitmap icons for some incredible iconic companies including Xerox PARC, eBay, Motorola, and countless others. I got to see and design first-gen products often years before they hit the market.

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

Social gaming site Friendster. Oof.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

So many! I love the work we’re doing for The U.S. Marine Corps, figuring out what a modern, cookie-less experience looks like, and collaborating with the Data team to determine an ethical framework for personalization. I also love our Volkswagen ID.4 work which enables customers to configure and purchase a car online. Our Wunderman Thompson team made such an incredible experience that we sold out those cars within 8 hours. Boom.

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