Designer Spotlight: Nancy Liang

This weeks Designer Spotlight focuses on Nancy Liang, a Shapeways alum and a passionate creator, who has made an awesome web app called Mixee Me that turns you into an action figure! 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?

I am Nancy, formerly the Materials Product Lead of Shapeways. I launched silver, frosted ultra detail, ceramics, polished strong and flexible, the image popper and a bunch of other projects while I was at Shapeways. I’m really a nerd at heart. I love hacking together everything from image poppers to dog treat dispensers. It’s so much fun to make things, and I want to help other people make things too. Right now, I’m working on making web apps that make it easy to 3D model. We just launched Mixee Me, which enables people to create 3D printed characters right from their browser. 

What’s the story behind Mixee Me? 
When I was little, I always wanted to have an action figure of myself, a childhood dream if you will. I thought that if you were made into a figurine, then you had made it in life: that was my bar for a successful life. When I first learned about 3D printing and 3D modeling, I knew this was my opportunity to make myself into an action figure. So I sat down with Google Sketch Up and ended up spending a whole day learning to model, fixing holes, dealing with inverted normals and all sorts of frustrating bugs. I ended up making a stick figure. This was a far cry from the action figure of my dreams. That was disappointing. With Mixee Me, we want to make it easy for anybody to create their own characters, so nobody has to experience the frustrations of my first character making episode. Oh, and yes, I did make a miniature of myself with Mixee Me. Yes, it only took me 30 seconds. Yes, I checked that childhood dream off my list! Woo hoo!

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
I applied to Shapeways because it was the only company that covered all my interests: technology, enabling others to make stuff and design. I actually had no experience in materials, or 3D printing, or product management, but I really wanted to work there!! I knew Shapeways was going to be at the NYC Maker Faire, so I made sure I showed up to talk to Peter and the team. I guess my persistence paid off, as I ended up getting an amazing job and worked with an amazing group of people. (Ed note: Aww thanks!)
How did you learn how to design in 3D?
So here’s my secret: I never actually learned. One cool thing about Shapeways is that it has a wonderful community of modelers who are willing to help each other out, some are even willing to work on projects for commission. Through the Shapeways forum, I met somebody who I commission to do most of my modeling for me. I then take the models and tweak them, or in the case of Mixee Me convert them to Javascript friendly Web App models.
How do you promote your work?
I’ve been fortunate that a few blogs have found 3D printed memes to be interesting and right now is a great time for 3D printed designs. 3D printing as a technology is making a splash in the media, even some of my non-tech friends have heard of 3D printing and are interested. Media (blogs, newspapers) are definitely interested. I try to create works that are shareable. Memes like Sad Keanu are shareable. Mixee Me is also shareable, we are hoping that people will see Mixee Mes as a good gifting opportunity. For example, we have some friends who are in long distance relationships giving Mixees of themselves to their significant others, so there is a little physical representation to keep each other company. 
Who are your favorite designers or artists?
Kikkerland, it’s more of a company than a designer, but I love their whimsical, fun products. I love anything on ThinkGeek. I love the Strandbeest, it is incredibly cool conceptually and design-wise.
I am also constantly impressed by the structures people build in Minetoys.
Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
Michiel Cornelissen’s designs are beautiful and functional, I love his a bit cross. Continuum Fashion, of 3D printed bikini fame, they do awesome, beautiful and fun work and they share my philosophies about enabling people to create and share. Stony Smith, I’m not a train person at all, but the way that Stony approaches helping out the community is really an inspiration for me. (Ed note: and for us too!)  I’ve tried to make it easy for people to create so I’m excited to see what people create with Mixee Me! 

So what are you waiting for? Make your own character on Mixee Me, or check out what other people are making. Check out the Holiday Gift Guide for your meme fix too!

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