Colby May is creating a better future through interactive design

Colby May has always been passionate about the unseen aspects of design and understanding the way things work. Born in Prince Edward Island, growing up in rural Alberta and now living in Vancouver, his upbringing shaped his relationship and appreciation for the environment. As a student at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Colby has been able to combine his environmental awareness with his expertise in design.  

Colby specializes in interactive design, which is the interaction between people and a product, system or service. Having grasped the design fundamentals after his first year, Colby looked for opportunities to apply his skills in a professional environment. “As a student, you see or hear about industries such as sustainable technology or emerging technology that sound interesting, but seem so blue sky, and you think ‘how could I ever do that?’ The Design for Startups program provides the setting to explore areas that we didn’t know existed.” 

Design for Startups (DfS), a pilot project in the Digital Technology Supercluster’s Capacity Building Program, pairs emerging designers with local, early-stage technology startups to work on a specific design problem. As part of the Fall 2019 DfS cohort, Colby was paired with Victoria-based start-up Open Ocean Robotics

Open Ocean Robotics, one of B.C.’s leading cleantech companies, collects ocean data by using solar-powered autonomous boats. These unmanned surface vehicles (USV), equipped with sensors and communication devices, send information to satellites or though cell service to collect and share real-time information. Capturing ocean data allows us to better protect our oceans by being able to remotely monitor things such as illegal fisheries or endangered species.  

During his 12-week placement, Colby started to build the prototype for a platform specifically for USVs, which included outlining the user experience from log in to monitoring USVs remotely to what users see on a dashboard map. His experience at Open Ocean Robotics strengthened his motivation to work at the intersection of design and the environment.  

Having completed two cohorts in the Design for Startups program, Colby feels equipped to enter the workforce when he graduates this spring. As he reflects on his experience at Emily Carr, he shares: “Design for Startups was one of the best opportunities at Emily Carr. The program is the perfect mix of academia and industry. You receive the collaborative feedback and assistance of being in university, while honing your professional practice by working with a local startup.”  

After graduation, Colby plans to open a design studio called Liiift with a few partners, and they already have clients lined up, including Open Ocean Robotics. The team is excited to be able to finish the rest of the platform that Colby started and contribute to solutions that will better our world. 

Learn more about Design for Startups here.