Meet Jessica Hurwit, one of MGA&D’s Senior Product Designers. Jessica has been a design leader at MGA&D since 2013. Coming to the firm with experience working in a consumer goods company, Jessica understands the importance of branding and using design to exceed consumer expectations. While working on healthcare design, housewares, research projects and everything else, Jessica ensures consumers’ wants and needs are always at the forefront of design decision making. Get to know more about Jessica as she shares insights into her personality, interests and perspective on design, and life in general.

If you were not a product designer, what would your alternate career be?

JH: I think I would want to be a food writer. Not a restaurant critic, but something more along the lines of a “historic gastronomist,” which is a term created by Sarah Lohman to describe someone who uses history to advance modern cuisine and our knowledge of food. I love everything about food culture, especially the way it can give such intimate understanding of people. It’s a lot like design ethnography in that way.

When you are away from the studio, what can you be found doing?

JH: When the weather is good I really like to go to local outdoor festivals – food, crafts, or really anything that sounds interesting. I went to the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill, PA last year for the first time, and it was pretty awesome.

You just won a free trip, where would you go?

JH: Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand all in one shot. I have family who took a cruise in the fall hitting all three which sounded amazing. While cruises aren’t my preferred method of travel, those destinations are definitely high on my list and would be fun to do in one trip.

What book(s) are currently reading?

JH: I’ve been reading a lot of comedians’ memoirs in the last year – I like to read books that literally make me laugh out loud. I just finished Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat and now I’m moving on to Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

What are some of your favorite places in Princeton?

JH: I love visiting the Princeton University Art Museum because it reminds me of London and its free museums, and Prospect Gardens on campus is beautiful especially in the summer. The Princeton Battlefield is also a really cool spot with the Ionic Colonnade and Mercer Tree. And of course, Michael’s house is one of the most incredible homes I’ve ever had the opportunity to see.

What songs are most listened to on your playlists?

JH: I’m more of a podcast listener these days, but Kiss by Prince, Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes, Stolen Dance by Milky Chance, Stay With Me by Rod Stewart, and Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer are a few songs that are always in the rotation. Oh, and Pheobe Ryan’s cover of Ignition always puts me in a good mood.

What blogs do you follow?

JH: Fast Company, Design Boom, Food52, and Serious Eats

What languages do you speak?

JH: English and a minuscule amount of French.

Who is your design idol?

JH: I admired Michael and his work long before I even thought it was a possibility to work at MGA&D, and I also am a big fan of Eva Zeisel.

What do you believe is the most valuable trait as a designer?

JH: The ability and willingness to listen – like really listen. If you’re doing ethnography, or if you’re being given a critique of your work, or if you’re having conversations with a client (and these are only a few examples), you need to be able to hear and understand the people around you to do your job effectively.

What new skill would you like to learn and why?

JH: I’ve been dying to learn Cantonese to speak with my mother’s side of the family, which has proven extra difficult because most language education only covers Mandarin. And I’ve always wanted to learn to play the harp, just because I’m fascinated by the complexity of the instrument, and I love the sound.

What was one of your most defining moments in life?

JH: When I was in high school applying to colleges, all I wanted was to go to NYU and live in Manhattan, but I got waitlisted. I was accepted to Syracuse University and only visited after being accepted, and I fell in love with the school and the Industrial Design program. NYU called shortly after my visit to tell me a spot had opened up, but I chose Syracuse anyway. When I think about the experience and education I received there plus the incredible friends I met there, it was the best decision my past self could have made.