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Meet Digital Futures grad Leon Lu

Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones
Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones
Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones
Leon Lu Illustration depicting men sitting at table with phones
Table designed by Leon Lu
Table designed by Leon Lu
Table designed by Leon Lu
Table designed by Leon Lu

Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phonesLeon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones

How do you change people’s social behavior so they interact with each other face-to-face instead of with their screens? Leon Lu’s research in the Digital Futures graduate program is focused on problem-solving this very contemporary issue and addressing the socio-cultural impact of Internet-connected devices. “As a designer I’m very interested in interaction,” he says. “I want to change behaviour and get people to talk to each other so they can empathize with one another.” 

Using a theoretical framework based on the persuasive design and behavioral model posited by scientist BJ Fogg, Lu prototyped different interventions designed to limit certain behaviors and encourage other actions. To encourage face-to-face interaction, thus far he’s created a dining table with a surface that moves when it detects the presence of phones, and a chess board that won’t let players begin a game until their phones are put away.  

Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phonesLeon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones

After earning an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University in New Delhi, India, Lu worked in advertising, an experience he says helped push his career in a positive direction. “Advertising taught me how much good storytelling affects people’s behaviour and perception, and I started becoming interested in how perception affects our interaction with objects and tangible things in the real world.” 

Lu credits the collaborative atmosphere of the Digital Futures program for supporting his research: “For a university environment it’s unique. You can work with people from very different backgrounds in this program, so understanding each other is very important. Communication is definitely a good real world skill to have,” he says. “Getting feedback from my colleagues is very helpful, and I’ve been working closely with a student with a background in Industrial Design. We all put in a lot of work together in this program and build close relationships.” 

Table designed by Leon LuTable designed by Leon Lu

Lu also enjoyed the opportunity to work as research assistant in the Visual Analytics Lab at OCAD U, where he tackled design problems, analyzed data and provided insights for companies, including The Globe and Mail. “It’s real world work, not just research for research’s sake,” he says. 

Table designed by Leon LuTable designed by Leon Lu

Leon is currently a Resident Research Fellow at NYU Shanghai, where he spends his time teaching and working on his own research. 

Find out more: madebyleon.co 




Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones
Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones
Table designed by Leon Lu
Table designed by Leon Lu

Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phonesLeon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones

How do you change people’s social behavior so they interact with each other face-to-face instead of with their screens? Leon Lu’s research in the Digital Futures graduate program is focused on problem-solving this very contemporary issue and addressing the socio-cultural impact of Internet-connected devices. “As a designer I’m very interested in interaction,” he says. “I want to change behaviour and get people to talk to each other so they can empathize with one another.” 

Using a theoretical framework based on the persuasive design and behavioral model posited by scientist BJ Fogg, Lu prototyped different interventions designed to limit certain behaviors and encourage other actions. To encourage face-to-face interaction, thus far he’s created a dining table with a surface that moves when it detects the presence of phones, and a chess board that won’t let players begin a game until their phones are put away.  

Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phonesLeon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones

After earning an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University in New Delhi, India, Lu worked in advertising, an experience he says helped push his career in a positive direction. “Advertising taught me how much good storytelling affects people’s behaviour and perception, and I started becoming interested in how perception affects our interaction with objects and tangible things in the real world.” 

Lu credits the collaborative atmosphere of the Digital Futures program for supporting his research: “For a university environment it’s unique. You can work with people from very different backgrounds in this program, so understanding each other is very important. Communication is definitely a good real world skill to have,” he says. “Getting feedback from my colleagues is very helpful, and I’ve been working closely with a student with a background in Industrial Design. We all put in a lot of work together in this program and build close relationships.” 

Table designed by Leon LuTable designed by Leon Lu

Lu also enjoyed the opportunity to work as research assistant in the Visual Analytics Lab at OCAD U, where he tackled design problems, analyzed data and provided insights for companies, including The Globe and Mail. “It’s real world work, not just research for research’s sake,” he says. 

Table designed by Leon LuTable designed by Leon Lu

Leon is currently a Resident Research Fellow at NYU Shanghai, where he spends his time teaching and working on his own research. 

Find out more: madebyleon.co 

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