In this Faces of Unity post, we’re spotlighting Unity’s Design Manager for Digital Twins in Montreal, Manuel Sainsily. Read on to learn more about Manuel’s career journey, childhood influences, and a special passion project inspired by his cultural roots.
What do you do at Unity? Tell us about your experience here.
I’m a design manager for the Digital Twins organization at Unity, based in Montreal. I manage a large team of product designers across multiple platforms, products, industries, and timezones. Our goal is to support the product teams by building flows, UI mockups, prototypes, and UX journeys that describe end-to-end product experiences from a user perspective. We also conduct design research, lead workshops, and partner closely with stakeholders across the organization.
I had dreamt of working for Unity in the past, so I was excited to join the company in 2021 and help grow an incredible team of designers while learning more about the software. Now, a year later, I’m comfortable building XR experiences with the Editor. I feel confident that my goals of expressing myself and my culture through art while inspiring others along the way are within reach.
What have been your biggest influences?
I grew up on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and was always surrounded by art. Both of my parents graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Paris; my mother became an art teacher and my dad a renowned artist. I remember seeing them working on passion projects at night after long days of work.
When I was very little, we used to watch old VHS tapes together, and one short film that stuck with me was the Pixar lamp, Luxo Jr. That was my first encounter with the world of 3D and it continues to influence me. My parents also taught me color theory at a young age, and I’d sit at my father’s turquoise Mac G3 playing with colors and shapes on early versions of Photoshop. I got into gaming on a Sega NeoGenesis before I could even reach all the controller buttons, and I spent many hours in those fantastic universes.
How did you choose your career path?
My parents always told me that art doesn’t pay – especially for minorities – and while I was talented and practiced different artistic hobbies, they hoped I would pursue medicine or law. But, I was obsessed with computers and design software, and was spending most of my time at home playing video games or creating worlds.
So, when the time came to choose my path, I decided on a computer science program in Montreal. As a visible minority in a new country, I wanted to integrate myself and make a difference for my people. I started working in the tech industry as a designer, and always hoped to enter the gaming industry one day.
Now, Unity allows me to do both design work and my own freelance projects in a very rewarding way, and I’ve found great communities and talented colleagues with similar interests.
What’s a cool project you’re working on?
A lot of my work involves immersive multisensory experiences and human-computer interaction, but the heart of my artistic process is my Caribbean culture, which connects me with music and nature.
This is where I’m finding inspiration for my current side project, in which I’m building a digital world with characters and stories inspired by my island’s folklore. During the pandemic, I spent most of my free time working on it, watching tutorials and taking online courses for Blender and Unity. Like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Iceland, I want to create a digital twin of Guadeloupe to preserve our culture. Climate change and social issues are tearing my country apart, so I’m using technology to help build a digital archive.
This project has made me fall back in love with storytelling, architecture, and biomimicry, and I’d love for it to develop into something that can serve different purposes like providing virtual spaces for artists, entrepreneurs and cultural events.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I’m a big proponent of “learning out loud”. As a manager, I try to model this by sharing my journey, and it’s always inspiring when my team shares their work with me. I believe in creating an environment where everyone is encouraged to explore their passions and grow.
I also enjoy helping people connect, whether through the creation of online communities like the Designer Hangout Slack and XR Family Clubhouse, the launch of the Haptics Club podcast focused on the haptics industry, or the many other social media channels and public speaking events that I participate in at Unity and beyond. I’m inspired by my colleagues that share a similar drive, and hope that I can inspire others, too.