Having structure

I’ve been thinking about daily regime and how that enhances mindfulness.

Most days, I aim to leave and come home in sync. Exceptions remain flexible, but feel special. Special in the sense of an appreciation which comes from “I am breaking routine to go to this event. This event is a good use of my time. I am making an exception to my routine to go.”

Because I make it the norm to do this, it also makes me conscious of time spent together. By having a regime and boxing time, minutes become more precious. Overall, less time is wasted. Days feel more productive. Time is spent more aptly with more gratitude.

Nice books, Mean books

Right now I’m hot for books which show me I’ve been doing things all wrong. It’s really the writing with a clear opinion, so even if I sometimes disagree, I know where the author is coming from.

Previously, I used to hate these books and gravitate towards the ones where it would rub me on the back: good creative, good job!

Though, to clarify, neither is better than the other, building confidence is a necessary first step to becoming proficient. Then it’s time to read about how you’re doing it all wrong. Finally, you then make a point to fix it.

~

This is a train post. Forgive me if I accidentally a word.

On being scared as hell

I was scared as hell. It was a trip to my first conference ever across the cost during a rainy week. Technically, I was accompanied by the people who were my classmates, but I barely knew anyone then. Essentially, I felt like I went alone, and as luck would have it, the hostel busted its water heater and wasn’t fixed until 3 nights later. Cold days, cold showers, tons of regret.

Still, I opted to go on my own free will.
That gut feeling changed the course of my immediate postgrad life dramatically.

But it’s not just these lofty trips that would scare me.

Sending a link I find interesting to a dlist or chat room scares me.
Asking people out for lunch scares me.
Linking a design for inspection scares me.
Posting this scares me.

These little and big things which are probably good for us, especially in hindsight, are actually things which scare the shits out of us in the present.

Maybe others are braver than I. But you know what’s interesting? Some have in return told me that they wish they were as brave as I. (My reaction? lolwat)

So here I am telling you that I’m fucking scared on the inside when I go about doing some minuscule things and definitely all the big things. Know that perhaps both the people you admire and are admiring you are quaking in their boots, thinking about something, a something which will likely be great for them.

In order to seriously grow, we need to do more things which scare us, but are good for us.

I guess you could say that’s my 2013 resolution.
Being less sedentary is a great runner-up though. 

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.

It’s a Thanksgiving post. Sketch of our set-up.

Two days ago 

My family is fucking inconsiderate, what else is new.

I won’t rescind this statement, because it’s very true.
Despite that, I still make it home several times a year. I still care if things are okay. I constantly wonder if one day I’ll regret not coming back more than I do.

Onwards
I’m thankful for how much better I’ve become in my craft, and especially for the people who are there everyday to shape my growth.
Related, I’m thankful that I was forced to carefully evaluate what was next. And of course, thankful that I was able to find something which blew those expectations away.
I remain thankful for the people who helped me get into what ended up being the college of my dreams.
And that I found the perfect niche there, populated with the people of beyond my dreams.
I’m thankful for my friends, old and new, who share my passions and philosophies. Life has been so much better since I’ve had you.
I’m most thankful that after a day of work, I have someone to go home to, someone to share what we believe is our lives’ work.
I’m thankful tomorrow won’t be the same. I’m thankful we, especially the we who can read this on an insanely advanced device, are positioned to make that tomorrow a better place.

It’s a Thanksgiving post. Sketch of our set-up.


Two days ago 

My family is fucking inconsiderate, what else is new.

I won’t rescind this statement, because it’s very true.

Despite that, I still make it home several times a year. I still care if things are okay. I constantly wonder if one day I’ll regret not coming back more than I do.


Onwards

I’m thankful for how much better I’ve become in my craft, and especially for the people who are there everyday to shape my growth.

Related, I’m thankful that I was forced to carefully evaluate what was next. And of course, thankful that I was able to find something which blew those expectations away.

I remain thankful for the people who helped me get into what ended up being the college of my dreams.

And that I found the perfect niche there, populated with the people of beyond my dreams.

I’m thankful for my friends, old and new, who share my passions and philosophies. Life has been so much better since I’ve had you.

I’m most thankful that after a day of work, I have someone to go home to, someone to share what we believe is our lives’ work.

I’m thankful tomorrow won’t be the same. I’m thankful we, especially the we who can read this on an insanely advanced device, are positioned to make that tomorrow a better place.

I realized what ‘experience is everything’ means

It occurred to me on the drive home today that experience is everything.
No really, let me try to explain.

While I enjoy the spaciousness of our sedan, I always fear scraping the passenger’s side when I drive the vehicle. In fact, this has happened and I still drive the thing with fear.

The obvious adjustment would be to ditch the machine and go for a skinnier model. However, there’s a huge cost of switching. It isn’t as easy to switch out a car as it is a computer, for example.

Yet, there were no way you could have known those few inches would be so impractical, from parking on the streets, down to your own garage. It wasn’t until you lived with it you’d figure all these things out. No amount of internet research, word of mouth, or obsessing could have brought these issues to light. It’s all the in the experience.

I’ve been thinking about growing up. How despite the fact I’m now 23, I still struggle with fundamental human things like mingling or, even, expressing gratitude.

But maybe that’s okay. Especially if, with every single interaction, you get a little better.

For my next year and more of existence, I plan to go out for many drives instead of leaving the car parked in the garage, to gain that experience. There will definitely be scratches, scrapes, and bumps, but if everything is in the experience, I can’t wait to see where I end up by the time I’m 30, 25, or even 24.

A funny thought I had today: if you wish for the same thing every year, does it compound?

For everyone I care about around me to be happy, alive, and well for many years to come.


Family, friends, acquaintances, mentors, humans: Thanks for sticking around.

A funny thought I had today: if you wish for the same thing every year, does it compound?

For everyone I care about around me to be happy, alive, and well for many years to come.

Family, friends, acquaintances, mentors, humans: Thanks for sticking around.

How cutting hair is quite like designing

One DIY lifehack I’ve found immensely useful has been the ability to cut hair. [1] I cut my own bangs between hair stylist trips. I also cut hair for a select few individuals. [2]

The key to do this well is not being afraid to remove.

In order to cut hair, you need to remove hair. If you were afraid to remove hair, then nothing will be done.

Likewise, in order to design, you need to reach the simplest set of features with the right touches to delight. As you iterate through designs, it’s almost always evident some things need to be removed. I’m sure everyone agrees feature creep is a bad thing and simplicity is ideal. The question is, are you afraid to remove?

As I continually cut more hair and design more things, I realize these processes are more alike than first impression.

~

  1. If you are interested: Buy yourself a pair of thinning shears. Safety scissors only work pretty well until you have to layer anything, which is most of the time. Feel free to ask me about cutting bangs (and design!) too.

  2. Namely folks who won’t sue me if the crazy happened. Like a supercuts ear.

The Petty Crime Paradox

No more #MadeWithPaper for awhile. Our iPad was stolen from our apartment among other things.

I debated writing this, but it’s perhaps our lack of awareness that does us humans in. This is an attempt to emolliate that.

  • It happens. Maybe it’s the Chinese in me, and perhaps it’s still shameful, but it sure felt good to talk to good company about it.
  • It’s normal to feel violated. What’s really devastating is the fact that it was so incredibly simple for somebody to pry your space open. It helps to know everyone who had experienced theft felt that way in some capacity.
  • It’s okay to be angry. Pre-school lessons in courtesy are being violated. Someone took your shit.
  • Deadbolt. Everything.
  • Invest in security. This is a really cool piece of technology I’m now very excited about.
  • iCloud is useless. It seems like even the pettiest thieves know how to disable it. Install prey.
  • But also be a bonafide nerd. Back everything up. In case not a nerd, ask your nerd friend about it.
  • Material goods are replaceable.
  • Life still goes on.

The paradox part.

We are fortunate to be in a position where we could buy all the items back if we wanted. Additionally, no one was hurt. Everything which was taken was easily replaceable. Given more time, things like passports could have been dug up and sentimental goods could have been destroyed. Rationalizing it all out, everything’s all right.

I also find humor in the fact my essentially worthless headphones ~$10 were taken while my ~$400 Copic collection was untouched. Had these thieves been slightly more educated, they could have better optimized their grab. Then again, had these thieves been that smart, they probably wouldn’t have to resort to a life of petty crime.

It’s a strange paradox — We assume it’s easy enough to start getting a life back up, yet, for these people, it seems impossible to do so. In the end, I do feel a little sorry for them. But, then again I wanted to wash the cushions last Sunday. We had no quarters. Jerks.

That being said, nothing good came out of brooding over it. Back to work!

Switch out of your first job sooner. You are not an impostor.

The 6th was my anniversary for moving up to the great Silicon Valley. The 28th will be my anniversary of one full year of fulltime employment. These are thoughts about the last year.

  • It’s about 1 year since I started working fulltime at a job. Insert feelings of excitement, mixed with the reality of naiveté. I had no idea what I was doing. I fell for the fraternal start-up trap of a dream. Free lunch, pay for the phone bill, have an iPad too, oh, and travel all the time. I, embarrassingly, thought these were the things which mattered.

  • It’s about ½ a year since I was laid off from my first fulltime job. It was a tough time, but not in the practical sense. There was enough money and generous feel-good support, but I didn’t know what to do myself. The sensation was very similar to a first romance break-up. Everyone tells you to acquire the prize you oh-so-desperately believe you deserved. No one tells you how to get over it when it departs.

  • It’s about ¼ a year since I started my second fulltime job.

    Some days I still really feel ill about myself.

    Do I really deserve my current role? Designing not one, but several new products, cornerstone to the company’s future success?
    And, on that note, how the hell did I even manage to get two degrees? Not just that, but get them in 4 years and a summer.
    Wait, this whole getting into one of the most amazing schools for tech thing, That must have been a lucky accident.

    I’ve always struggled to believe in my own competence. In jest, my LinkedIn summary does say “My aim is to be useful,” implying I’m not as useful as I could be today. But my goal really is to be useful. This goal never ends. When the industry moves forward, one needs to move forward with it. At least, that’s what the culmination of all of my one year experience points to.

    Yes, I could blame the first 18 years of my life for Impostor Syndrome. Everyday, I was told I was a worthless sack of shit, because my grades would never get me anywhere in life. I could also blame this extroverted oriented society too. Embarrassingly, once again, I actually wholeheartedly believed this.

    Now I know, I need to be able to tell myself, when no one else is there to keep telling me, I am competent. And for the first time in my life, I’m spending my time doing what I’d like and being valued for it. Sometimes I catch myself thinking it’s still unbelievable.

    Needless to say, I really like my current job, after hour routine, friends, peers, aspirations, trajectory, and occasional spurts of extroversion despite having to pay for my own lunch. It wouldn’t have been possible without that first break-up.

    So, two takeaways from this past year:
  1. Switch out of your first job sooner. You never know what’s good for you until you experience more.
  2. You are not an impostor. You deserve what you have. And, hey, even if it were a grand fluke, you should live up to it and make the most out of it.

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.

short:

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

long:

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?

finally:

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.

Job Hunt Post-mortem ii & Sincerity

Today, I sent in my signed offer letter to Trulia. It wasn’t an easy choice, and admittedly, not the sexy option, but it’s one made with conviction.

If there’s any secret to doing a job hunt well, it would be this: be sincere. Sincerity open doors. Framing everything in the lens of sincerity also helped me get over the classic problem of having to portray all my work, good, okay, and less than okay, as these gems of the universe. Sincerity also lead to the most amicable rejections, connections, and conversations I’ve ever had in such short working relationships.

I also learned first-hand people are not inaccessible. Well, given you’re sincere about wanting to connect. I also learned that not everyone will be charmed, and in those cases, a sincere no is great feedback. It will go both ways.

Hope one day I can join the ranks of those who have built something great.
& be as sincere as possible about the yes’ and no’s to come.

But, for now, I’m totally sick of job hunting and glad it’s over.

~

p.s. My first job hunt post-mortem. It’s fun to compare the differences.

Designers.

This double-edged sword.

In a perfect world:
The product should have a voice. One of an angel: beautiful and clear.
<=>
The product should not piss anyone off. Everyone will become our user, thus we should not piss anyone off.

These two things manifest all products, but especially big, meaningful, complex products. There is demand to have a voice. There is demand to make everything as usable as possible for everyone.

But the reality is, a great product is always growing, changing in big and subtle ways. As a great product grows, so does its voice. Voice check please! And as it grows, so does its user base, and the chance you’ll piss off someone is exponentially higher. You just can’t please them all.

That’s why we have designers.
Designers are in charge of nurturing both a product’s voice and bottom-line usability.

Don’t be afraid to tune that voice, take some risks, & piss off a few people.

No one gets it completely right the first time. That’s why we keep throwing ourselves against the brick wall and trying. 

How to curb any bad habit.

Or at least, how I curb my bad habits.

Everyone goes through phases, sometimes bad ones. Here’s my philosophy on curbing the bad ones: Indulge. Let yourself have as much and as often of this thing.

Psychology tells us things are counter-intuitive all the time. This applies here.

Scenario 1. You actively refrain from shopping online, but all you think day-in and day-out is ‘just 5 minutes’ on the site. As soon as you let yourself pop open that browser window, all hell breaks loose. I can’t imagine you would drop that visit after 5 minutes.

Scenario 2. You want go to shop? Go shop. Buy all the things. Let it accumulate. Eventually, you’d just be disgusted in yourself for accumulating things you’ll never have a chance to wear. You’ll stop and that desire to stop comes from within. It’ll be out of necessity, not out of self-restraint. And in my experience, self-restraint is not a sure thing. Intrinsic motivation is.

Of course, this is just my theory.
Maybe it’ll work for you, maybe it won’t.

And there will be those few things which no matter how much you indulge, throw yourself at it, try to stop yourself from doing it, you’ll keep doing. Those things are your passion. Think about it. How can you make this raison d’etre your everyday reality?

Head fake.