Aug: Sites/ideas to play with

Inspiration for when your “new ideas” bucket gets dry.

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Focus

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In large organizations, my experience has been that having too many ongoing projects at the same time for the same product leads to a messy outcome. The ideal scenario involves everyone having a single vision and general focus area.

Imagine you’re designing a sushi restaurant. There are 3 different leaders of this sushi restaurant. One of them wants to focus on sashimi, one wants to diversify the palette with western food and one wants to serve regular sushi. While they all have unique strengths that they can bring to the table (no pun intended), the marketing ad and menu for that restaurant will start to get really confusing.

Here’s a real life example. Public transit in the bay area is managed by multiple agencies. CalTrain runs north/south of the peninsula, Muni serves San Francisco and Bart connects the northern half of the peninsula to East Bay. Additionally, VTA serves San Jose and South Bay cities and AC transit serves East Bay towns. I’ve run into more confused tourists in San Francisco than anywhere else, because no one knows which bus/tram/train to take. When I first arrived in the city, I was dumbfounded by how nonsensical the system was. In contrast, Boston’s MBTA is responsible for the commuter rail, subway system and buses.

 

Above: San Francisco transit systems

I feel that the same applies to tech products as well. Vurb was an app that helped you figure out what to do in your spare time. You could plan an event with friends, whether it was concerts, music or theatre. They had a lot of interesting concepts – especially that of collaborating with other folks on getting together, but it was hard to figure out when exactly I would need this app. They couldn’t gain mass traction and sold to Snapchat for $110 million+. However, apps like Instagram have remained resilient in today’s mature app market because it does one thing really, really well. It allows people to share a moment through a photo and for other people to see that photo. Its simplicity is what allows it to work.

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To create a product that people will use, its purpose must be clear and intentional. It seems obvious, but often we try to stack too many features on top of a product, which makes it less desirable in the end.

That’s probably a sign for me to give this blog a focus. Until next time!

 

 

Musings of a millenial techie in China

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Last week, I went back to China for the first time in 8 years. 

What I realized when I got there is that all Google products including Gmail and Google Maps, Facebook products including Instagram and Messenger, Twitter products, Tumblr, Flickr, Medium, Reddit, SoundCloud and more don’t load in China. You need a VPN to access these sites, which I didn’t use on this trip. 

I connected physically and digitally through WeChat with my Chinese family, but I simultaneously disconnected with my Western friends. 

I lost access to alternative perspectives. I wanted to get updates from friends who have family in France and Turkey, which have been in the news this week, but I couldn’t get that info passively. 

I lost the ability to use local apps for search (Baidu), directions (Baidu Maps) and ride-sharing (Didi Kuaidi). I could make calls on the the Nexus 5X with a local sim card, but I couldn’t install new apps because Google’s play store won’t ever load. (It’s not an AOSP device.)

I lost access to lots of apps that are integrated with Google products. My cousin tried to play Pokemon Go (the latest craze), but it doesn’t work in China because it uses Google Maps. 

More importantly, I lost the ability to communicate with a few core email and messaging apps. (Though I did use WhatsApp and WeChat for calls.)

If your whole life exists in China, then you don’t feel it. You have domestic services that fulfill all the things that those companies do with added censorship. But if you can see clearly from both inside and outside the firewall, you can’t ignore its effects. 

“Where did all the women go?”

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This is a conversation that I have with my product and graphic design friends on a frequent basis. If the ratio of design students is relatively balanced between genders, then why don’t we see more female designers in the actual workforce? Is it the lack of role models? After all, how many female designers did we see in our history books? Is it lack of self-confidence? Or is it that women have children at the height of their careers? In every design company I’ve worked at men have outnumbered women. I’m not trying to make a feminist statement, I’m just curious. So I tried to search for something that might answer my question.

New York Times:

…most of the designers who win commissions from those companies are male. The same applies to the AIGA’s highest profile members. The only woman except Ms. Jongerius among the 22 designers or design teams to be listed on Vitra’s Web site for designing its office furniture is Ray Eames, who died in 1988.

Why do so few women reach the top of design? The short answer is the same lack of self-belief and entitlement that dogs them in every other profession, combined with opposition from those who commission the majority of design projects, most of whom are men. The graphic designer Paula Scher once described this as the “Why did I get the woman?” syndrome.

Jane Piirto:

Barron studied young artists at the San Francisco Art Institute and at the Rhode Island School of Design….In asking the students the question. Do you think of yourself as an artist? 67% of the women said no and 60% of the men said yes. When asked the question, In comparison to the work of others at the Institute, is your work particularly unique or good? 40% of the men and 17% of the women answered yes. And when asked In comparison to the work of others at the Institute, is your work inferior? the percentages were reversed: 40% of the women felt their work was inferior and 14% of the men agreed.

Barron pointed out that this revealed a difference in self-image in the women, and that these differences were not indications of the real quality of the men’s and women’s art work, indicating that “the quality of the women’s art work was equally high.” The main difference came in the intensity of the commitment of the young artists to their work. Almost all of the men said their art work was their life, was necessary for life, and was their main reason for living: “Without painting I couldn’t function.”

There are many more examples, studies and quotes, but they all center around the same themes of self-perception in some way or another.

So maybe it’s all of the above.

Maybe it’s something I’ll figure out when I turn 30, because nothing I read is satisfying my curiosity. My main priority right now is my work and my art, and I would also like to think that I have self-belief. I also know that many of my female friends feel the same. They’re finding jobs at design consultancies, healthcare start-ups, famous shoe companies, etc and are doing well in those spaces, which is why they’re also asking me “where are all the women?”

I guess we’ll have to see.

Maybe I’ll come across this blog in ten years and make an addendum to this post.