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When I was 5, my mom gave me my first diary and was taught to write in it every night before going to sleep. To this day, I haven't stopped handwriting my personal thoughts, stories, and self-reflections in my journal. 

This is a place for me to share what I find beautiful in my adventures, what makes me excited and passionate, and all the lessons I learn along the way. 

Filtering by Category: Conferences

Speaking at Google I/O 2017(!!)

Fiona Yeung

Prototyping to Production: Bridging the Gap with a Common Tool

3 years ago on May 19th, I started my first day at Google as a design intern. This year, I got to speak at Google I/O, an annual developer conference designed to engage and celebrate the developer community  with 7,200 attendees at Shoreline Amphitheatre.

My colleague David, a UX engineer and I gave a talk on how to bridge the gap between designers/developers through a prototyping-centric workflow using a UI framework called Flutter. In this talk, we covered the existing workflow between designers and engineers, 4 mindsets that help bridge this gap, the power of prototyping, my journey to learning how to code, and a live demo using Flutter. 

The 3-day event was as exciting as I thought it would be. It felt more like a festival than a conference. The Shoreline Amphitheatre parking lot was transformed into an exciting summer tech festival with a 'Main Street' boardwalk with sandboxes spread out across the venue to demonstrate different products to explore. There were street performers, live music, and even an after-hours arcade. I met a ton of people through Women Techmakers, XX+UX, and Flutter office hours that made me proud to be working at Google where education and openness is so highly prioritized. 

It was dream being able to speak at Google I/O. I'm grateful, humbled, and very blessed to say the least. I'm excited to continue growing at Google, pursuing bigger goals and dreams as a designer.

Stefan Sagmeister on "Why Beauty Matters"

Fiona Yeung

Last week, Googlers in Mountain View had the privilege of seeing Stefan Sagmeister give a lecture on "Why Beauty Matters". If you don't know already, Stefan Sagmeister is one of my all-time favourite designers so I was beyond ecstatic when I found out he was going to give a talk at my office. 

“This whole idea that beauty is skin deep and surface-like is kind of stupid. That’s a very deeply stupid idea. There is an unbelievable function in beauty.” - Sagmeister

I find it really interesting that a lot of designers are 'trained' to believe that the answer "...because it's more beautiful" isn't a valid or good enough reason to why we choose to design something a certain way. However, Sagmeister argues that it is a completely valid answer. He uses the airport safety card as an example saying without beauty, people don't pay attention to things thus it cannot communicate or be functional. 

Modern day airports is another example Stefan brings up . Today, the interior of airports look universally the same so much that the only way you can really tell where you are (aside from looking at the language) is by the power outlets. Is it due to globalization and technology that we've become so unified and the same?  When you look at what the presidents and kings wore throughout history, every decade, every culture is drastically different but fast forward to the 60s to today, suits is all we see. 

Key Takeaways

5 rules that Stefan talked about:
Beauty is part of being human.
Even the oldest tools humans created such as the stone ax were made to be symmetrical even though it didn't add any intrinsic function to the tool other than to simply be more beautiful.

Beauty changes our mood.
Grand Central Station and Penn Station are two train stations in New York City. Looking at the different tweets from riders in each station, it was apparent that those were were in the beautiful Grand Central Station were in a significantly better mood than those at Penn Station. 

 Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station

 Penn Station

Penn Station

When we lose our mind, we can still recognize beauty.
A test was conducted for people with Dementia where they were given 5 paintings and were asked to put them in order from the most beautiful to least. Not only did all the participants rank the paintings in the same order, but they repeated this a few months later even with no recollection of already having done this. 

Beauty improves functionality.
Airplane safety cards were ugly. Nobody ever looked at them thus they weren't functional. Stefan showed an example of Virgin America's safety video which was clever, entertaining, and beautiful, and people actually paid attention therefore improving functionality. 

We agree on what is beautiful.
Sagmeister showed the audience two pieces of painting; one an authentic Mondrian piece, and another was a fake. In each example, the audience was able to guess correctly which was the real Mondrian painting. 

Insights from Interaction 16 #IXD

Fiona Yeung

Design as a whole is becoming embedded in business, society and technology. The internet is profoundly changing the way the world conducts business and consumes services, and modern computing is taking interaction design to places which we didn’t dare to dream about before.

A few weeks ago I attended Interaction Design Association's (IxDA) 9th annual Interaction conference in Helsinki, Finland  on March 2-4, 2016.  Nearly 1200 design professionals, leaders, students and volunteers gathered together to enjoy three days of workshops and lectures.

Design, Science, and Music

The opening keynote by Marko Ahtisaari was about the intersection of design, science and music coming together. The Sync Project is his company that aims to understand and decode the personalized therapeutic effect of music; to use music as precision medicine to improve health. He started the keynote with a beautiful recomposed rendition of Vivaldi's Spring by Max Richter.

Key points that he focused on: 

From Enlightenment to Entanglement. We’re becoming increasingly entangled in our machines. We once struggled to give new institutions the power to act on our behalf. Now that we have smart devices surrounding us, we’re have a similar uneasiness when handing over power to computers. 

Systems over objects. The ability to manufacture smart machines is now in the hands of not only large companies but also individuals and small organizations. This calls for supply chains and ecosystems to be more transparent and accessible if we want to foster innovation from smaller players.

Participation over user-centric. These new intelligent systems don’t have a center, so there’s no center to put a user. Instead, we’re seeing the rise of complex, adaptive systems. The role of the designer will be more facilitative–more like a conductor than a producer. How can we co-design with machine intelligence? 

Emergence over authority / control. Lastly, we’ll co-design with artificial intelligence. The studio will be a symbiosis of human and machine, so we’ll need to figure out is best meant for humans and what's best for machines. 


Steve Baty gave a fantastic talk on interaction design across scale. Interaction Design looks at the request-response mechanisms and controls - the microinteractions - that make up the fundamental building blocks of technology. As we increase the scale of our efforts, interaction design shifts in focus from microinteractions to screens and tasks; screens and tasks to activities; activities to services; and services to interconnected systems. At the same time, the toolset and perspective of the interaction designer needs also to shift. Steve Baty talked about change in perspective as we design at different scales of interaction, and the accompanying change in method and skill set needed to successfully navigate between them. 

TLDR; The most successful interaction designers simultaneously operate across scales, balancing high-level thinking with detail, and moving seamlessly between the two.

  1. The Plane of Interaction
    • Task activity focus
    • Interaction handling
    • Labels, micro-copy, error messages
  2. Beyond the Plane
    • Cultural identity
    • Consistency and coherence
    • Persuasion, game mechanics
  3. Across Channels
    • Focus on group activities an dynamics
    • Closed systems are easier to design than open systems
    • Wayfinding
  4. In Systems
    • Step out of problem space, reframe the problem
    • Chaos theory and emergence
    • Urban planning, economics
 Sketchnote by  @priscillamok

Sketchnote by @priscillamok

The Dawn of Agentive Technology: The UX of “soft” AI

Chris Noessel's keynote is about the UX of soft AI. "There is a new category of technology that is emerging across the world, in which a system does complex work on behalf of its user. In these agentive systems, a low-level artificial intelligence acts as an agent on a user’s behalf to accomplish some task. It delivers on the promises of user-centered design more than ever before, but will require that businesses, designers, governments, and technologists think of them distinctly and design for them differently. It will require them to master new scenarios and new tools."

Agentive tech is when technologies do things on the users' behalf from robot vacuum cleaner, or a self-driving car to prospero, a farming robot. Agentive tech is the next step from assistive tech. Assistive tech helps, agentive tech acts on your behalf. With agentive technology, users are promoted to managers.

Robot Ethics & the Future of Human-Robot Interaction

Kate Darling was the opener on the second day where she talked about anthropomorphism; the attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being. We treat robots like humans to make judgements about our environment when they are suppose to be tools. We anthropomorphize robots because they’re physical, intentional, and social. The ethics of robotic interactions was an interesting area that she talked about. Even though we are conscious that the robots are not alive and are simply machines, we are often feel empathy for them because of our anthropomorphism and strong response towards eyes. There are also a lot of privacy concerns; would robots make people share more resulting in exploitation? 

People increasingly treat robots like animals which also means we are more empathic but also can be desensitized with violence against robots. How does our interaction with robots influence our interaction with each other? Can we change people's empathy with robots? 

  Boston Dynamics' "Spot' dog. 

Boston Dynamics' "Spot' dog. 

Design in a Wiggly World: Of Mirrors, Virtual Reality and Big Data

The last opening keynote of the conference was presented by Tricia Wang, and it was my favourite one  out of all the talks and keynotes. She explores our understanding for 'truth' in visual representations and how we often confuse representation with experience. She starts off by taking us way back to the Renaissance era where Italian painters argued with the Chinese painters over their different understanding of linear and aerial perspective in paintings. Even though we've come a long with with understanding and acknowledging that different perspectives exist, we still have this myth that we can see reality through a single lens and that single perspective is the objective truth. 

3 tools for representation: 

  1. Mirrors
  2. Big Data
  3. Virtual Reality 

The problem with raw data is that it's actually not raw. What we as designers choose to measure and how to analyze it influences the actual data. It's like when we create surveys, what we ask ultimately shapes the answers and the thought process of the users which can create a bias or inaccurate data.  Virtual reality aims to show us the truest reality that we can possible 'live' through...but what's inaccurate is that what's being shown requires a perspective, a well designed storyline which means not everything is shown equally. 

Tricia talks about inclusion and diversity and gives several examples how it's important for us designers to create with more perspective or else mistakes will happen just like when Google Photos  falsely identified some people of color as “gorillas.”  Similarly, Nikon cameras falsely detected blinking in Asian users. The cameras suggested that people in the photo had blinked when their eyes were actually open. These mishaps are called perspective collision which is when the perspective of the designer or creator of the technology clashes with the perspectives of users. 


As part of the conference, there were several design studios in Helsinki that participated in the Open Studios week. I visited Fjord and Nordkapp and got to meet a ton of designers around the world. The best thing about this conference was the coming together of so many passionate designers from all over the world. I had a conversation with a woman who talked about what it was like to first sign up for email and how it took a bit to catch on her for college class. She got to experience the early days of the online world and t's exciting to see where design and technology will be in a few years from now. I'm experiencing the "early days" of virtual reality and artificial intelligence right now so who knows what I'll get to share with the new designers of the next generation! 

Smart Frictions #IXD16

Fiona Yeung

One of my favourite talks at the Interaction 16 conference was Smart Frictions, by Simone Rebaudengo and Nicolas Nova. I've been really fascinated by smart objects and the oh-so- hot term 'IoT' lately since it feels like every product seems to be getting 'smarter' these days. In this dual talk, Simone and Nicolas explored some issues in 'smart' technology, connected devices and their uses and misuses. 

Simone Rebaudengo opened this talk by explaining what I/O meant. I for input, O for output, but that the '/' was an undefined thing  filled with 'smart' black boxes... and we don't really know how it works. First we dismantled our understanding and assumptions of the term 'smart'. When a product is smart, we have assumptions that change the way we interact with it and end up making expectations that influence the way we experience its flaws. We believe that objects are neutral and objective in nature but what if we designed objects that were transparently biased? How do we influence behaviour?  "Experiences with “smart” products seems to converge into a passive taking over of tasks that hides all the complexity and control behind “simple” interfaces."

What interfaces can we design to avoid turning people into unaware and passive bystanders? How can a product adapt its smartness to a range of various users’ profile in order to fit their culture / desires / situations?

Teacher of Algorithms
Taking a look at robot vacuums, we can see that they really aren't that smart for the most part often getting stuck in the corners or under the couch. Smart objects evolve as they learn and interpret our habits, but how much smarter might they be if we could train and teach their algorithms to enhance their decisions? What if things are not that good at learning after all without some help? Simone showed us a video from ThingTank where they're training smart objects such as robot vacuums with a stick, much like punish/reward hacking in order to teach it to move around and clean 'smart'. (see 2:38) 

Politics of Power
"This project looks at how a mass-manufactured product - although developed for a precise and unique purpose - could behave differently depending on the nature of its communication protocol and how the design of the product itself could reflect these hidden logic and rules. 

In every existing network - be it machine or nature, rules are established in order to determine its structure, hierarchy, and the way the communication will be synchronized between all the actors of the network. But who and what criterions will define this power hierarchy? Products and networks are inherently embedded with ideologies of the designers, engineers, and other stakeholders who shape their trajectory along the way."

If there was a power shortage, how do our machines work in parallel? Well, they can't which is why we begin to question how does the power of politics work and who should be given the priority?

For a more in-depth analysis of the work that Automato has been delving into, check out their site.

Nicolas Nova takes over the talk and further discusses what smartness means. Right now, we adjust to our technology.  For example, a driver asks Siri to call her friend but Siri isn't familiar with the pronunciation of the name and instead the driver needs to pronounce the name inaccurately in order for Siri to understand. He explains how smartness is not neutral and that we need to be a good teacher in order for our devices to be 'smart'...but what if we are bad at teaching? What if we have lazy behaviours? Do we simplify ourselves to machines? How much responsibility do humans need in 'smart' devices? When do you need control and when do we let the machine take over? We need to find the in-between. 

What we should aim for:
Smart → Clever
Automation → Assistive
Optimized → Resourceful
Magic →  Expectable
Intelligent → Perspicacious
Predictive → Perceptive

Overall, this talk asked a lot of questions that left me very curious about what future technology will be like, and how smart they will be, and how smart we will be as well. 

TEDxUCI Limitless: 50 Years of Vitality

Fiona Yeung

I attended and unofficially volunteered at the TEDxUCI Limitless: 50 Years of Vitality event last month! My boyfriend Eric was part of the core exec team so it was a no-brainer for me to attend and show support. The event focused on celebrating UC Irvine’s past, present, and future featuring speakers from UCI and from the community such as Chris Fox, Joel Veenstra, Naty Rico, and Diego Rosso. But what's TedX? — TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." They are conferences that are held globally by individual organizers such as cities, schools and other institutions. The format of Ted talks are "A suite of short, carefully prepared talks, demonstrations and performances that are idea-focused, and cover a wide range of subjects to foster learning, inspiration and wonder – and provoke conversations that matter.' 

This was actually my first time attending a TedX event even though I've been a Ted talk viewer online for several years. One of my goals is to speak at a TedX event one day as I hope to inspire and share ideas as well. I didn't get a chance to listen to all the speakers but the ones that I did listen to were quite interesting. We even got to see a handy ultra sound demo being done right on the stage! 

It was very touching see that all the hard work of the core team members were paid off as the event was a huge success. It's always important for me to surround myself with people who care about wanting to inspire change, positivity, and promote new ideas so attending this conference was really fun. 

YYZ to PHX for Grace Hopper

Fiona Yeung

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) is the world's largest gathering of women technologists. I'm extremely excited and grateful that I'll get to attend this year thanks to Google. This year, Grace Hopper will open its doors to 8,000 attendees which is incredible! I'm looking forward to learning more about leadership development, professional development, and gaining insights about career options.

During my internship at Google this past summer, Google released their company diversity report and showed the public that only 30% of the company are women. A few other companies also released similar statistics. A few weeks following that announcement, I attended my first XX+UX meetup which was a networking and mixer event for women UX designers in the Bay Area. And just recently in September, the Facebook design team partnered up with my design program (YSDN) and held a "Women in Design" panel event at my school. All of these events opened up my eyes to how shocking the statistics are and how women in the tech industry is something to be celebrated and encouraged! It also makes me proud to be a woman in tech, and more importantly, want to teach others that there are tons of options for girls and women in this field. 

It's my first time attending so I don't really know what to expect, but I'm sure I'll learn a lot from all the inspiring women that will be attending. I'm excited to meet other women in the industry to connect, collaborate and chat with them about interesting ideas and discussions. Knowing that I'll be surrounded by passionate women that are eager to learn and share their knowledge makes me that much more excited for this trip. One day, I aspire to become a leader and inspiration to others. :)

I'll be writing another post after the conference is over. Stay tuned!