Mikhail Khoury

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A brief intro.

My name is Mikhail. I’m a foolishly passionate designer with a hyperbolic enthusiasm for honest design. My fascination and expertise lies at the intersection of the imaginative Design process and the methodical Engineering process where grand, seemingly crazy ideas are born and realized.

Disclaimer: the next part can drag on, as I tend to be long-winded.

If you want the short version, here is my resume.

Or if you just want to chat, send me a note: mikhail@mikhailkhoury.com

Some of the hats I’ve worn.

Lead Product Designer @ iPort 2021 – 2022

Trade. Barter. Deposit. Transfer. Swipe. Dip. Tap. Zap, Pip, Bop. (Who knows what we’ll call it next!) Transactions – these are the rituals we perform every single day to move money in exchange for goods and services. These transactions are fundamental to our everyday lives: just think of how many times a day you use a credit card or phone to make a payment. And yet, the overall user interface and experience for such a fundamental activity can be quite messy. There exist a myriad of payment systems, with different user-interactions, form factors and orders of operation. Every store or restaurant has it’s own box or screen (or series of boxes and screens) for swiping or inserting credit cards, confirming transaction amounts, digital signing, enrolling in rewards…etc. (For reasons I don’t understand at all, most transactions are still accompanied by a printed paper receipt full of jargon and modern-day hieroglyphics. And more, some of those printed papers are comically long, like miniature medieval scrolls. WHY!? ) As transaction technologies evolve, from dipping cards to taping phones, there is a need for intuitive, adaptable payment interfaces designed around those technologies.

At iPort, I was part of a small design team focused on Point-Of-Sale (POS) hardware solutions for large-scale enterprise uses, mostly in retail and hospitality applications. (To name a few, I worked on hardware solutions for Nike worldwide retail, lululemon nationwide retail, T-Mobile nationwide retail.) These solutions were specifically designed to work with Apple iPhone and iPad products; cases, docks, stands, kiosks, all designed around iPhones and iPads in order to create streamlined payment experiences. My expertise was in designing products centered around user experience, while retaining hallmark iPort functionality such as conductive charging and system-wide modularity.

At a high level, I was thinking about the transaction process between merchant and customer; I was studying user interactions and developing product concepts to seamlessly support those interactions. I obsessed over understanding and optimizing user experience. As a product designer, my allegiance is to the end-user(s); as an appointed design official, I must understand and empathize with my constituents. Field trips, interviews and market studies shaped general ideas, design thinking and rapid prototyping refined those ideas, and engineering testing & development gave form to those ideas. At the refinement stages, I was building scale models and app mockups, making rapid prototypes with 3D printers and laser cutters, and developing hardware systems with interlocking parts and adjustable features. At a detail level, I would dial in the optimal motion for a given feature or system, the optimal interaction, and then define it’s technical parameters. I’d play with mates that could twist, snap and pop, and joints that could flip, swivel and click. Then I’d build test jigs to determine just the right amount of snap (force) or just the right amount of twist (torque).

Mechanical Design Engineer @ Impact Automation 2019 – 2021

Conveyors! The automated ones. They’re damn impressive to watch. At Impact Automation, I worked on the mechanical design of large automated conveyor sortation systems for parcels (i.e. mail). Big boxes, little boxes, heavy boxes, tiny envelopes – you name it. I worked on the integration of mechanical and controls systems for high-volume automated parcel sortation. The name of the game: throughput. In order to increase the bulk flow of product, I helped design and develop novel parcel accumulation systems. At a basic level, I played around with piling, dumping, merging and tumbling mail in order to efficiently and safely increase throughput. On top of mechanical design, I flexed my knack in visual communications and created a wide variety of technical & support documentation for use in material handling facilities across the U.S. In product design, it can generally be said that a great product should need no instruction manual at all; a great product is discoverable, as Don Norman elegantly puts it. But when it comes to industrial systems, the inherent complexity often warrants clear operations and troubleshooting guides. I worked on creating these guides with an emphasis on making them friendly, unlike most technical documentation. This involved rethinking entire layouts, creating clear and beautiful graphics, and often asking my friends or my wife to read certain sections to get a muggle’s feedback of wizard documentation.

Mechanical Engineer @ Murzan 2016 – 2019

Murzan is a leader in sanitary transfer pumps for the food & pharmaceutical industries. Basically, Murzan builds machines (pumps) that move lots of product (mostly liquids) from one spot to another spot in an industrial plant. Murzan’s air-operated sanitary diaphragm pumps transfer the products no other type or brand of pump can handle. We’re talking industrial quantities of ketchup, toothpaste, lotion, pancake batter, and even the creamiest, tastiest peanut butter. Oh yes, huge barrels full of peanut butter. Know how food plants used to get the peanut butter out of the barrels back in the day? Shovels. No kidding. They’d shovel the peanut butter out of the barrel and into a wheelbarrow of sorts, to transport to some other location. Wouldn’t want to be that guy. Well, back in the 80s, Murzan developed a fancy automated unloading system, equipped with a Murzan diaphragm pump, that would empty those barrels at the flip of a switch. Just hook up a 100psi air line and the Murzan system took care of the rest. A plunger fitted with a Murzan pump would empty the barrel and transport the product via a series of stainless steel piping. During my time at Murzan, I worked on the mechanical design of precision stainless steel parts for those very unloading systems. I also travelled to food plants across the U.S. to install and troubleshoot those systems. Another neat project I worked on was an automated processing and dilution system for ketchup! I managed the assembly, testing and on-site installation of the entire system for a food plant in Guatemala. It was pretty damn cool by the time it was complete. At Murzan, I took on a few side projects which grew to become major assets for the company. I developed custom in-house software, which automated all sorts of processes and saved thousands of hours of manual data entry and analysis. I also created a variety of marketing material, a spare parts kit, and even developed a new company website from scratch.

Makerspace Manager @ Invention Studio 2013 – 2016

The Georgia Tech Invention Studio is a 100% student-run makerspace, equipped with just about every machine imaginable for the most daring design & engineering projects. During my time as an engineering undergrad, this space was my sanctuary. If I wasn’t in class, I was probably building something wacky in the Invention Studio. I became heavily involved with the studio and worked as a manager of the makerspace, specifically overseeing the woodworking shop. (Eventually, I would have my own woodshop.) Beyond managing the woodshop, I supervised and taught students to use all the makerspace machinery, including laser cutters, a 5-axis waterjet cutter, all shapes and sizes of 3D printers, as well as traditional and CNC metalworking & woodworking machines.

Math Teacher 2015 – 2017

It all began with me helping out my little sister with her 6th grade math homework. Next thing I knew, my tutoring skills were in high demand and I was giving private lessons to a curious bunch of secondary school students. This impromptu professorship remains one of my most formative experiences as a designer and engineer. Teaching mathematics was such an exciting and creative challenge: each lesson pushed me to search for simple, novel and clever ways to deliver a fascinating subject made (sadly) so dull by the average classroom.