Adriana Valdez YoungAdriana Valdez Young

Adriana Valdez Young

Urban Design Strategist

Adriana is an urban design researcher, writer, and educator. She has worked at agencies, startups, and non-profit organizations to craft insights and stories that support human-centered products, experiences, brands, and cities. She teaches research at Parsons School of Design and serves on the advisory board of Pono, NYC’s only outdoor, democratic school.

What did you do before Openbox?

Most recently, I was the head of brand for Stae, a city data startup. And before that, I Ied customer research and insights at littleBits, a platform for kids to invent their own technology.

What do you like about the work you do?

As a researcher, I love the moment when I realize I’m wrong! That may sound like a terrible thing, but actually when I spend time in the field getting to know people, observing everyday life, and interviewing subject-matter experts, my initial hypotheses and assumptions almost always get knocked away by the undeniable realities I uncover. It’s also a wonderful feeling to test prototypes and identify when I’ve lost people’s interest or motivation. Then I think, “Aha! Good! This is not working and I know why.” There are not many fields where getting things wrong is a positive, even celebrated, part of the work. So as designers and researchers, we are lucky that we have the luxury to push ourselves to new and unexpected truths and design outcomes, and get things wrong along the way to uncovering the really good stuff.

What does inclusivity mean to you?

I think in its very basic form, inclusion is a passive invitation or visual cue that very simple, flexible structures present in the everyday life of our cities. On any given day in a city, I like to see how simple handrails offer themselves as skating ramps, laundry lines, kissing posts, bus stops, vendor racks, monkey bars, and squirrel slides. In this way, I think inclusivity is flexibility and adaptability.

When do you feel most like yourself?

When I’m pretending to be a robot called “The Clothes-on Machine” that rings the doorbell each morning to help my son get ready for school.

I spend a lot of time thinking about…

Where waste goes, how to integrate Buddhist thoughts into mundane activities like vacuuming, how everyone creates their own invisible design systems, and what kinds of memories I’m helping to create for my son.