Doreen Lorenzo Interviews Sesame Street Digital Design Director Breonna Rodriguez
For her Designing Women series, Doreen Lorenzo talked to Sesame Street digital design director, Breonna Rodriguez, about design methodology and what it’s like to work for such an iconic brand.
Rodriguez grew up with a love of creating. When she was young, she even made her own steering wheel out of cardboard so she could pretend to drive during car rides with her mother. In her mind, she has always been a designer in some shape or form. It is no surprise then that she found her way to Sesame Workshop.
Rodriguez describes how working with children changes the design problem. Digital products are designed differently for children than they are for adults. For example, a toddler’s inability to read means a designer has to design without incorporating words. These kinds of challenges change the usability and iconography. All design decisions are supported by how children use technology.
Sesame Workshop has always approached their projects backed by research. Although Rodriguez saw the value in this, she also saw an opportunity to innovate and take risks, but only after she understood the research. She successfully argued to change the buttons on Sesame Street devices to match current trends, and the users immediately understood how to interact with the new design. Rodriguez explained, “Even though a lot of research is just well known, over time you still have to iterate, and you play with it to sync up with the rest of world around you.”
The biggest challenge when designing for Sesame Street is nostalgia. Because the brand is remembered differently by everyone, they each ascribe their own memories to the brand and want to see their memories reflected in current designs. When her team works with an outside agency, they allow for this kind of nostalgia by building it into their timelines. They make room for the excitement of including the entire cast of characters into the design (regardless if needed), then get back to work at designing for the specific task at hand.
Doreen ends the conversation by asking Rodriguez if being a woman has made her job any harder or easier. Rodriguez explains that she chooses not to focus on how being a women affects her career. “Someone trying to compute who I am based on my physical appearance is just not my problem. Being a woman of color, you witness from a very early age how people calculate what you’re capable of based on your appearance. And there’s always been this sense to just put myself out there regardless of what anyone thinks.” Rodriguez also expresses that she thinks it is an amazing time to be a woman because women are breaking through outdated expectations. She believes that a better future is ahead and the earth is a better place when we are valuing equality, love, and respect.