Art on the BART: My Snapchat finger painting experiment

Last month, I challenged myself to create one drawing per day during my 15-minute commute. I turned to an unlikely medium: Snapchat. There’s something inspiring about its constraints. A drawing tool. A color picker. 4.7 inches of screen. A few emojis and stickers. It’s the anti-Photoshop. What could go wrong?

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Keeping in touch: 8 thought experiments on communication

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Alice and Bob are two friends who have never met in person. They live on planet Xorab, where there is a very strict law re: communication. They are only allowed to talk via videophone. The law forbids them from meeting face-to-face. Now, and forever more. Meanwhile on planet Ploxtar, there live two friends, Cindy and Dave, who also have never met in person. Their communication is subject to a different rule: they are only allowed to talk via asynchronous video messages. A video walkie-talkie. They can never, ever converse in real-time. To what extent is C and D’s friendship different than A and B’s?

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What I learned as an intern at Uber

No class could have prepared me for what it’s like to be a designer at a multi-billion dollar startup. The Uber Design team taught me a lot about why the company is so successful and how to create great products for a global audience.

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What’s really going on at Yale

This article was originally published on Huffington Post.

By now, you’ve probably seen the video of a Yale student yelling at a professor, the Facebook post about a “white girls only” party, or the email about offensive Halloween costumes. Unfortunately, the short YouTube clips and articles I’ve seen don’t even come close to painting an accurate picture of what’s happening at Yale. I’m a senior here, and I’ve experienced the controversy firsthand over the past week (and years). I want to tell a more complete story and set a few facts straight.

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Two questions on the future of design

Can a web design be as timeless as a book design or a piece of artwork? We revere the centuries-old Gutenberg Bible and the Mona Lisa. But we laugh at web designs that are only a few years old. Will the craft of web design be subject to the whims of ever-changing trends and fashion and style? What would it take to make a web design timeless? The foundational principles of graphic design certainly haven’t changed in the last twenty years, so why are there so few websites that have stood the test of time, aesthetically?

What will mobile OS designers steal from wearable OS designers? Many of the latest developments in Mac OS X were clearly inspired by iOS. New form factors free designers from established ways of thinking. The shift to mobile spawned interesting new interaction ideas, which were then brought to the desktop. It will be fascinating to see how wearable OS design informs the next generation of mobile OS design.


Q&A with Enrique Allen, co-founder of Designer Fund

Enrique Allen — the co-founder of Designer Fund and a teacher at Stanford’s — is on a mission to rid the world of “shitty user experiences.” Last month, I sat down with him at Designer Fund in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. The space feels more like a home or a lounge than an office. Beautiful posters hang on the walls and books line the shelves next to a small kitchen in the back. Designer Fund invests in design entrepreneurs who are solving problems in markets that traditionally lack design innovation — from healthcare, to education, to energy. Allen and his team also run Bridge, a design education program that connects experienced designers with top tier companies. Through Bridge, designers get paid to work at a startup of their choice and participate in weekly workshops, dinners, and talks.

In Silicon Valley, there’s a very codified system for building engineering teams. Designers, however, still lack a lot of this infrastructure, and Enrique Allen wants to change that. His aim at Designer Fund is to elevate the careers of designers. With Bridge application season underway, I talked to Enrique Allen about the inspiration behind Designer Fund and the promise of design education.

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Strangers, but not that strange

Ankit Shah is the kind of person who asks, “How are you?” and means it. If you say “good,” he’ll ask why. He doesn’t want to know what you do for a living, but how and why you do it. Ankit’s curiosity extends to everyone he talks to. Even strangers. In fact, he’s met over a thousand strangers since founding Tea With Strangers in the spring of 2013. Though some might peg Tea With Strangers as an organization, Ankit prefers to call it a movement. The idea is simple: a website that allows people to sign up to get tea with five strangers, one of whom is a “host” that gently guides the conversation.

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The Future of Media on Snapchat: A design concept

When Evan Spiegel gave a talk at Yale last month, he told a room full of students that “the next year is going to be a lot about media on Snapchat. Broadcast media.”

One week later, Snapchat launched Snapcash—a feature that allows users to easily send money to their friends. Many in the press characterized it as a Venmo competitor. But Snapcash isn’t just about P2P payments. Now that users can spend money via Snapchat, the company has created a whole new set of opportunities for itself. I mocked up a concept for how big media companies could use Snapcash to create pay-per-view live streams on Snapchat. 

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No Strong Feelings

User interface designers work in a world of pixels, and perfectionism is part of their job description. They notice if an icon is slightly off-center, if the line-height of a text block is a little tight, if the border radius on a button is too large. Designers are opinionated, and they’re not easily satisfied.

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