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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSC)

Joy Q Zhang

Joy is a cross-cultural designer, engineer, and entrepreneur with expertise in user research, human factors, and manufacturing engineering. She has worked in 5 countries (US, China, France, Canada, United Kingdom) in 3 languages (English, Chinese, French).

Before joining the Innovation Design Engineering masters program, Joy received her B.S. from Georgia Tech in 2018 in Mechanical Engineering, minoring in Industrial Design.

Her achievements include:


Fast Company World Changing Ideas award + "100 Pioneers" on the Regenerative List for shADe, a plugin for sustainable online shopping

2nd Place + Open Tech Prize recipient at Energy Idea London Challenge 

Special Mention for IPFEN x Imperial Launch Hackathon 


Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Industrial Design Studentship

Imperial College WeInnovate Incubator Phase I candidate for Spore

RCA Grand Challenges Competition Finalist (Logitech x CERN)

How the internet is indexed, accessed, and experienced today deserves questioning. Midst the data privacy crisis, Backseat imagines another way to travel online without compromising ethics, via a browser that reflects our complex browsing patterns. In the Backseat browser, our online sharedness is not deterministic or forced. Backseat challenges the way we experience the online space, which has thus been linear. Instead, in Backseat the internet becomes a living and community-driven galaxy to explore. I'm excited to show you the culmination of five months of iteration and research. Please feel free to reach out to me for discussion or collaboration.

— What if we told you the internet isn’t a cabinet of files, but rather is an entire universe? We’ve all become so used to the terms “tabs” and “files” in our computer experience that we forget the internet is NOT a set of static files. We are no longer in the office of the 60’s. Today’s internet is an entire universe, filled with millions of humans on their own journeys across the galaxies.
— The browser is no longer a file viewer, but rather a vehicle that takes you along for the journey. And if the browser is a vehicle, then Backseat is the browser to hitch-hike your way across the internet.
— The two videos describe how Backseat is valuable to a first person “driver” as well as a third-person “backseat driver.” In the first use case, the user Neil is interested in a niche type of science. He’s a professional science communicator on social media.
— In the second use case, the user is Sally, a super-fan and science enthusiast who follows Neil on social media. She read his most recent tweet about News 1 and 2, and heard he shares browsing sessions on Backseat. The two journeys describe Backseat’s value to both individuals and groups of people. The collective value snowballs with the network effect per Metcalfe’s Law.

— Over the course of 5 months, I conducted over 30 interviews and 3 co-design sessions for user research. I learned that the internet experience is very similar to the travel experience. There are two main dimensions of travel, divided on left and right -- documentation and socialization. In each dimension, the needs of a person during and post travel have contrasting needs.
Contrasting needs for documentation — In the travel phase, users experience INFOMO — Fear Of Missing Out on Information, but feel conflicted with the mental distraction of documenting. It takes them out of the flow. This reflects the need for efficient, lean, focused navigation. In the post-travel phase, users often experienced shame and doubt over not remembering one of the many sources they referenced. This is where the thoroughness of documentation is needed most, but even the most diligent researchers can’t document enough for their liking
Contrasting needs for socialization — But what was even more interesting was the role that people played. During the travel phase, many of us are currently reliant on people to introduce serendipitous ideas. Meanwhile, during the post-travel phase people spend time alone making sense of all the information in order to arrive at a conclusion. So in the same way that we need time alone to reflect and synthesize, during the travel phase we need other people to allow for serendipity. The problem is, the current internet is not travel friendly.
— Browsing history has seen little innovation from the list-based display used for static files. As Backseat took shape as a “go pro for traveling the internet,” we realized it was useful beyond its features. It can challenge how we create and consume content online, as well as accelerate collective problem solving. Backseat extends into all types of content creation, ranging from live to curated, information to experience driven. It is a full-stack of content creation platform unlike anything existing today.

Please email for additional information.

— Thank you to the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 for supporting my graduate journey. Special thanks to Jinhui Wang, Shuya Gong, Dani Reis, Ken Webster, Octopus Energy Centre for Net Zero, and the Imperial Enterprise Lab. This collage is realized by the talented Jinhui Wang, MA Photography at RCA, to communicate the Backseat experience as one hitch-hikes the internet. Her work can be found here:

Royal Commission of 1851