Hello! I’m Amber.
I’m dedicated to helping people have better experiences by finding ways to make things more fun, meaningful, efficient, and delightful.
I apply my craft through UX contract work and design agency & department consulting.
A Little About Me
I’m a proven expert with 20+ years of experience in User Experience (UX), Product Design, Design Leadership, Efficiency, and Operational UX. I was named to Utah Business’ 40 Under 40 list in 2019. I’ve won multiple design awards, patents, and written several publications including a #1 Best Selling book.
After running my own consulting firm for a decade I joined a Bay Area startup that focused on applied machine learning. I was able to design the product from the ground up and then join the company as we expanded by 600% in the span of a year. I was a Keyman in the VC-funding by Gradient Ventures (the AI wing of Google Ventures) and an officer of the company. I built the UX and Product Design/Management disciplines while helping to secure multi-million dollar clients.
My interests are varied and are always changing—the byproduct of a creative mind, being an early riser, and ambitious curiosity.
Right now I’m actively interested in:
Loving Utah and my backyard.
After a year of living on and off in the Bay Area (Berkeley & Oakland) it’s so nice to be home. Home is even more meaningful to me than it used to be. Living in the high mountain desert is such a magical place (we have the BEST clouds here). I like to spend mornings in my yard with the cats and the wildlife and read, reflect, and write.
Yeah, like stuffed animals. There is a whole movement of “ethically sourced” taxidermy which is a fancy term for “I picked up some roadkill”. We can talk more about this if you want—some people want to talk about bird anatomy and guts, some don’t.
I also love to throw parties.
Here is the most epic one I’ve thrown to date: pirateconclave.com. Parties are just UX for your favorite people and I’m here for it.
I am very interested in how people generate, capture, and process ideas. I’m exploring how you bring discipline to the practice of ideation. I’m focusing on narrowing categories of thought, working ideas through a pipeline funnel, and producing the best work.
I enjoy writing and I’m pretty good at it. Right now I’m honing my different ideas into concrete categories of: UX Everywhere, Product Design, Design Leadership, Efficiency (better than productivity!), and Operational UX (how you run a design department or agency so that you build the best products, have the happiest clients, and the most satisfied employees).
Kenny Rogers knew what he was saying when he sang:
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em; Know when to fold ’em;
Know when to walk away; And know when to run.
Excerpt from 2019 Utah Business 40 Under 40
Amber Sawaya has always had a talent for art, so following her passion into a career in graphic design was a no-brainer. Combining her passion with business, she built a career around user experience―and it paid off. “My first self-made million was a huge accomplishment,” Ms. Sawaya says, describing the consulting firm she ran for over decade. But as she’s pushed forward with passion, her innovations have only continued to push the envelope.
Since joining the team at Zorroa―which provides machine learning tools for businesses―Ms. Sawaya has made her mark on a whole new industry. Pushing the value of user experience in artificial intelligence, she maps how real humans interact with the power of machine learning, and she’s taken a leadership role in guarding against undiversified bias and other unintentional consequences that have vexed earlier AI efforts. “This curious nature and ability to dive in and understand a new area served me well when I was able to bring a UX mindset to the artificial intelligence industry,” she says. A best-selling author and startup success, Ms. Sawaya is a heavily sought after speaker, influencer, and mentor.
Sawaya, Amber. Create an Informal Operating Agreement for Better Working Partnerships. Medium Publication: The Startup | Medium’s largest active publication, followed by +502K people. Last modified September 13, 2019.
Utah Business. Amber Sawaya Built A Career Around User Experience. Utah Business (blog). March 5, 2019.
Bicknell, Lindsay. 40 Under 40. Utah Business, February 2019. Featured on page 62.
Sawaya, Amber. I Don’t Know Who Needs to Hear This But: Update Your Portfolio. Medium Publication: UX Collective | Curated stories on user experience, usability, and product design. Last modified May 20, 2019.
Malmborg, David. How to Use UX & AI to Improve User Experience. Lecture, SLC|SEM monthly event, Salt Lake City, March 21, 2018. Invited speaker.
J, Scott. How Amber Sawaya does UX and gets paid. Speech, Salt Lake City Graphic Designers Meetup, Work Hive, Salt Lake City, 29, 2018. Invited speaker.
Sawaya, Amber. Musings on Leaving My Consulting Firm to Join a New Company. Medium Publication: Becoming Human | Exploring Artificial Intelligence & What it Means to be Human. Last modified November 20, 2017.
Sawaya, Amber. Building a Mobile App: The Client’s Guide, 3rd ed. Amazon, 2015. ⭐️ #1 Best Seller on Amazon.com.
7 Ways to Get Your First Freelance Client. The Work at Home Wife. Last modified April 12, 2015. Quoted expert opinion.
Kerrigan, Sally. Sites We Like: Jeni’s Ice Cream and Bruges Waffles & Frites. Adobe Typekit Blog. Last modified January 30, 2015. Media mention.
Time Off: How Small Business Owners Can Disconnect During Vacation. Bank of America. Accessed July 28, 2014. Quoted expert opinion.
How to “Disconnect” on Vacation—While Staying Connected. Women & Co (a service of Citigroup). Last modified July 23, 2014. Quoted expert opinion.
Kaye, Gordon. GDUSA 2012 Type Survey Sponsored by Veer. Graphic Design USA. Last modified December 13, 2012. Quoted expert opinion.
Sawaya, Amber. The New Ice Cream Social: Social Media in Your Personal & Business Life. Presentation, Junior League of Salt Lake City, March 2012.
Dingus, Cody. Boart Longyear Launches Mobile App to Access Information on the Go. Press release, March 5, 2012. Media mention.
Ledgewood, Kevin. Arts Council Launches New Website and Introduces New Logos. Press Release. Last modified July 6, 2011. Media mention.
Johnson, Mari. Arts Council to Build Cultural Center Downtown. The Crimson White. Last modified July 6, 2011. Media mention.
Sawaya, Amber. The New Ice Cream Social: Social Media in Your Personal & Business Life. Presentation, Mandate Press & Age Performance Community Event, July 18, 2009.
Amber has stepped in and filled a vital role in our team; she takes an idea written on a whiteboard and turns it into a UI our programmers can build and a UX our clients will love.
Wow! You made it all the way down here? Thanks for going on the journey.
Does it seem like we’d like to work together? Hit me up!