I might be over doing the “I’m so excited to _____” announcements lately, but seriously, I am so excited to get around to posting this work onto this blog.

For one my first paid paintings since high school, I got to paint a designer I admire’s slide deck. You can check out all 24 paintings and the talk on Medium.

Process –

I’m a fairly speedy painter, but I found that I had to approach like I did my UX work: in iterations. The first 2 revs were very much like my sketchnotes, which are fantastic since those are done realtime. However, for a deck, was much too sloppy of a format. The more colorful, polished watercolors struck the balance of polished, while not trying too hard, and quick to convey the content. For any talk, what’s most important is what the speaker had to say. /preach

Instagram — slice of life collage recaps.

Many state of the studio shots. Making any and all dining tables into a studio that is. Embracing nerdery wholly again. Letting myself play games and go do things that I wrongly rejected as ‘wastes of time’

I remember receiving this feedback in art school:

You’ve got the technique down, but stop wasting your time only drawing manga-style.

I still haven’t listened.

Life is short. Draw, illustrate, paint, collect, live the way you want. Responsibly, of course.

Beyond Pricing coming soon!

There’s a disproportionate amount of art > design on my process log. I’m happy to be able to start showing more design now that I’m leading this at Beyond.

You can see a few more related screenshots on dribbble.

If you want a sneak peek of the product, target user or not, we’re looking to show a Beta and gather some thoughts. Let me know if you’re interested: susan(at)beyondstays.com

Whoops, post-actively adding some missing designplus sketches to the series. From January 2014’s installment.

On Hiring Tech Designers

Once upon many times, I was on the other side of the table selling, selling, selling. Not as many times, I was on this side of the table armed with nothing, but eagerness and a whole hell lot of I have no idea what I am doing.

If I were the hiring manager—

  • No means no. Meh means no.
  • If you are a technology designer. That means you are responsible for Chrome, Firefox, IE, (Opera?), iOS, Android, AND Windows. No exceptions. None of this trendy unnecessary segregation.
  • You must code for the web. Or at least make an effort to speak its language. No exceptions.
  • Knowing how things work does not make anyone a ‘worse’ designer. In fact, my experience is quite the opposite. These folks are quite superior.
  • Portfolio still matters. Gut check. Refer to bullet one. If passed…
  • Is the candidate using a custom font? If so, what methods? There are so many good tools. This is less about the font itself and more about trying a little.
  • Is there any part of this website that is modified, if not built mostly from scratch? How is that organized? A little peek into how details are organized.
  • Is credit given to project teammates or portfolio building help in general? How does the About copy strike you, humble? arrogant? Nothing else matters if he/she is impossible to work with.
  • Click off to a social media profile of choice. Are the items assembled of good taste? Photoshop can be learned, taste less so.
  • Never force your team to choose between a hire who is worse or worst. Pressure to pick only creates a bigger cost in the future.
  • It only takes 1 poison apple to drive the apple pickers away. Firing is also as important as hiring.

It’s so important to have a philosophy if you aim to build great things. And even if I’m never hiring manager, writing this is a step towards figuring out that philosophy.

This is, as always, a work in progress.

Thanks to all my friends who unknowingly seeded this post recently, because all of these tenants are not completely my own, <3

Unnecessary Segregation between “Desktop” and “Mobile” UX’ers

I really, really don’t believe in the segregation between so-called “Desktop” and “Mobile” UX’ers.

A large portion of my work has and still is web design. When the rise of mobile came, some constantly made a point to hint that’d I’d be out of a job along with all the other “Desktop” designers.

Guys, don’t buy into it.

Learning how to create effective desktop AND mobile experiences isn’t binary.

At the crux of it all, the most important thing is to use the platforms. Get your hands on an Android and play with some highly regarded apps. Slow down in your iPhone consumption and notice the interactions. If you need to do a little Windows work, take a bloody Surface home and use it as if it were own.

As for the web, use the internet. Use the internet and notice what works. Observe which sites are “copying” interactions from each other. Chances are, if you see that interaction everywhere, there’s some charm behind it. Look outwards and hoard every visual and interaction worth stealing for any platform.

It totally pisses me off when there’s a post for “Mobile Designer” as if a “Desktop Designer” can’t do the job. Similarly to how I believe internet designers should code in a know-how capacity, if anyone were motivated enough to take on a project, he or she could just spend some quality time trying it out, failing once or twice, and become really great at it.

Also, there needs to be just about 4 more hours in a day because it’s 2am again. Also, these are just my opinions and not my employer’s something something legal-ease.

It feels good to be excited and come home to work on something.

The first iteration of Pocket Card&#8217;s UI. Pocket card will allow users to track things friends have borrowed and things you have borrowed from friends. Think of it as a library card for everything.

More of Pocket Card&#160;»

It feels good to be excited and come home to work on something.

The first iteration of Pocket Card’s UI. Pocket card will allow users to track things friends have borrowed and things you have borrowed from friends. Think of it as a library card for everything.

More of Pocket Card »

if & else in design

I’ve been thinking about how we can leverage the principle of if & else in design.
101 programming classes always teach you about if else statements fairly early on.

In design, we ramble about responsiveness with regards to the browser size. But what about responsiveness due to content? And, no, I don’t mean hiding useful content.

I mean, IF information is missing, just don’t show it. IF that information needed additional chrome, don’t show the chrome either. Or how about when input is necessary, we kindly ask them for input and clearly demonstrate the benefits? IF input ELSE input prompt. How do our interfaces change depending on what cards we have to show? IF rich input then rich output, ELSE input prompt.

When we design in photoshop, these details are lost.
In photoshop, we always assume we have all the pieces.

We need to think about all the edge cases.
But it’s hard just to think about them.
We actually need to live and breathe them.

Force yourself to use what’s on production servers.
Use the product you are designing for and dig for the ugly stuff.
Be motivated by the fact that this ugliness is something you yourself can truly make better.

“Can I see the insides of your sketchbook?” Now you can. Kind of. Photographs!

Eric Reiss’ talk two Thursdays ago. P.S. There’s an IXDA series, UX in Space next Wednesday @ Trulia’s 9th floor rooftop penthouse. All 8 talks from DxFSF.

In < 24 hours, I illustrated 9 talks.
Thinking about it makes my right hand pulsate a bit.


on freelancing, or simply, designing for others

One of the things I have had trouble handling is a suboptimal client[1] experience. I try to remind myself these things before signing-up for a new project.


Just one rule, if you hire me as your creative, trust me. [2]


These are the questions I try to get answered with the right reasons before proceeding.

What do you want me to do for you? Figure out if there is some actual thinking involved in the project, not just pixel monkeying. Sure, I know how to use Photoshop, good question, but so does the 13 year old manipulating her mirror self-shots. Clients: Keep in mind the person you are hiring is likely competent. Trying to micromanage every creative decision defeats the purpose. You might as well do it yourself. NO ONE is working for you as a “pixel monkey.”

How long do we have to do it? For some reason, the true time is the estimate x2. That’s just the nature of iterations and that’s cool. But on a bad project… It drags on and on and on. Beware of anyone who thinks “more is more.” Set a deadline and discuss what happens if it takes longer than planned. Clients: You want this result fast? A competent freelancer will make it happen. That’s why we ask about timelines. If you’re equating fast to sloppy, don’t bother dragging the experienced creative in. Hire the 13 year old.

But most importantly: Do you like my style? A surprising amount of individuals supposedly hire based on portfolio and yet, with one critique from a third party, suddenly decide it should “look like Apple.” Not even the most patient take this well. This one is hardest to safeguard. Bring it up, but put in the eject button in case the project target suddenly shifts. Get paid for what you did do and move on. Clients: Why did you hire this person? And is your conviction in your own product so weak that someone else’s one opinion shines over your entire vision?


I apologize to everyone who’s given me a fantastic freelancing experience. This is post is advice I wish I could give my past self, advice I try to give new(er) freelancers, and solidified resolution to stand my ground in the future.


  1. Client used liberally. This easily applies to school organizations, favors for “friends”, or cheap labor styled internships. An unfortunate slew of things young designers and artists put up with.

  2. The legendary story about Pablo Picasso’s one stroke portrait sums up why you should trust your hired creative gun. It’s in the experience.

She’s a wrap! Latest moonlighting project, just a selection of the bits and pieces which make up our darling Zoē. Project details @dribbble »