Aaron DePass was born in Atlanta, Georgia. However, when he was young his family moved to Annapolis, Maryland, where he grew up. Academics and soccer were the main priorities in his life for the majority of his childhood and adolescence. His parents signed him up for soccer at the first chance they could at around the age of four.
Unlike most kids, who jump around between different sports year to year, Aaron played soccer once and never looked back. He fell in love with the game. From a young age he yearned to be the best in both those areas — soccer and academics. It wasn’t until his sophomore year in high school where this mindset changed. At the time he was the captain of one of the country’s best soccer pre-academies. Simultaneously, he was meeting high standards of scholarship at one of the most rigorous high school programs in Maryland through The International Baccalaureate Programme.
The presented demand as well as increased difficulty from both soccer and school prompted Aaron to make what would be the hardest decision of his life thus far; to quit soccer altogether. His goal from a young age was to become a collegiate soccer player at a Division 1 school and then afterwards a lawyer. After the responsibilities of soccer started to become weightier and school became more difficult, he came to the realization that being a student athlete was not his true intention anymore. In the process of playing soccer every year, he lost direction of his mission and began to lose the love he once had for the sport.
After leaving behind a somewhat tumultuous relationship with athletics and academics, Aaron was looking for a new environment in the next chapter of his life — college. Duke University was seemingly the right fit for him because he felt as if it was a great combination of rigorous and challenging schoolwork, while also not resembling the same “dog-eat-dog” academic environment of other competing elite universities. The collaboration between students was the main draw for him; something he didn’t quite see at other institutions. At Duke, he is now majoring in Visual & Media Studies and pursuing certificates in Information Science Studies and Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Aaron’s plans after Duke are to become either a UX designer, front-end developer, and/or product manager. His coursework, mainly including “The Basics of Technology Commercialization” have proved important regardless of the specific market he goes into in the future. The class really focuses on what it means to build out a company and to have a product that sufficiently meets the need of the consumer in a way that hasn’t been done before. The knowledge gained from that course directly correlated to the current venture Aaron is working on — Critic. Critic is a text-summarization web application for film, tv, music, and game reviews. It is in its prototype and user research phase and proposes to use natural language processing and sentiment analysis to solve the problem of spending too much time reading reviews and looking for content to consume. Interning at a non-profit legal aid firm during his first summer at Duke through the DukeEngage Detroit program was definitely an inspiration as he started to develop this venture.
Aaron believes user experience design is all about recipe-making — creating a set of rules for which one uses a system. He enjoys finding ways to visually and intuitively communicate that recipe. One thing people should know about him is that he wants to know how other people would cook a certain dish or in other words craft a certain experience with a different set of ingredients. Aaron possess many idiosyncrasies that make up who he is and shapes the lens in which he looks at experiences. However, he cares deeply about exploring other people’s ways of thinking about how things can be designed.
He often times thinks a lot about the state of the art and asks questions why things are the way they are; whatever the medium — commerce websites, movie theatres, even opening a door. His creative approach—no matter the medium—is to find vulnerabilities with the state of art. This is not so he can try to reinvent the wheel for the sake of it, but rather finds points of tension in order to think critically and hopefully originally. The impact he hopes to have in the world is to design products and experiences that prompt people to question the status quo, not only in the tangible experiences they posess, but also in every aspect of their lives to hopefully inspire people to live more enriching and meaningful lives that truly matter to them.