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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: Design

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.

FAQ: Tips and tools for getting started in user experience design (aka UX)

Fiona Yeung

This piece was originally published on Medium with Google Design. 

As an interaction designer on the Material Design team at Google, I often receive emails and questions from people who are trying to transition to UX or who simply want to learn more about the ins and outs of the industry.

“I want to get started in the field, but being a [insert unrelated major] student, I just have no idea on where to start. Do you have any advice on what I can do to break into the UX field?”

User experience design is one of the most in-demand jobs right now. It’s a field that has grown and evolved so fast that it places new demands on its practitioners every day. UX designers work on a vast range of products and services from websites, mobile apps, and the Internet of Things, to VR and AI. There’s constantly new tools, new trends, and new technologies that we’re required to keep up with. As a relatively new designer in the industry and a former intern at Google, I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far, and start a repository of the most frequently asked UX questions that land in my inbox.

1. What is UX design?
UX design stands for user experience design. It’s about finding the sweet spot where human needs and business goals meet, while giving users a delightful and seamless experience with a product or service. Good user experience design is often invisible because it’s not just about how something looks, but instead about how it works. My friend and colleague Drew Shimomura helps distinguish between visual design and UX this way: “Visual design says ‘make it clear and simple’ while UX says ‘don’t make me think.’” As a UX designer, I try to help users reach their goal in as few steps as possible. UX is constantly working in the background, presenting information and functionality that makes sense to the user, while reflecting their needs.

2. I want to become a UX designer. Where do I begin?
Start with the fundamentals. Understanding how line, color, texture, shape, form, value, and space work together is useful if you want to develop an eye for good design, and necessary in helping you become a better designer. If you need a primer, I recommend reading Graphic Design: The New Basics by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, or Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. Both teach the fundamentals and are informed by contemporary media, theory, and technology. Don’t forget about typography basics too, I love Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type.

At Google, we created a design language called Material Design which is a design system that combines theory, resources, and tools for crafting digital experiences. You can explore the system at Material.io, and our Material Design Guidelines are a great resource for learning on your own.

Moving beyond these basics, we need to incorporate design thinking. Good UX requires us to understand people and behaviors. Consider reading up on The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman as well as IDEO.org’s Design Kit to dig deeper into Human-Centered Design. This goes into the research phase of the design process which is especially important in understanding the problem you’re trying to solve. For more information on the design process, I’d take a look at the sprint process created by Google Ventures to get a sense of what a (condensed) design process looks like.

3. Do I need a design degree to become a UX designer?
You don’t have to have a design degree to be a UX designer. I formally studied graphic design and found it to be useful, but many of my colleagues and friends in the industry are either self-taught or have non-traditional backgrounds. For example, my intern manager at Google studied cognitive science and a former colleague was a psychobiology major.

There are pros and cons for both formal training and being self-taught. Design school provides you with a structured learning environment and on-going guidance. There’s a well-planned curriculum with instructors, mentors, and people who are obligated to provide you with feedback. (UX bootcamps are a good alternative form of design education and typically run for 12-weeks or so).

If you decide to learn on your own, you may have to create your own environment, projects, and lesson plans. You can focus on exactly what you want without the constraints of a semester timeline, and you get to choose your own mentors (as long as you put in the work to find them). While it’s great to have more freedom with the types of projects you take on, this may come at the cost of structured guidance.

4. How important are internships?
Internships are a great way to learn about the industry. However, they usually require you to know a bit about UX and have a substantial portfolio already. If you’re currently a student, I highly recommend taking advantage of internships during the summer since many companies only accept students. Internships allowed me to try new experiences without a long-term commitment. It gave me time to figure out what I really wanted in a career and what kind of place was good for me. In fact, being an intern at Google is how I ended up here as a full-time designer! (Psst! Design internship applications are out now for summer 2017!)

5. What tools should I spend time learning?
A designer’s toolkit is large and relies on many skills and tools: physical, digital, and emotional. I like to design with Illustrator but other colleagues use Sketch, or Photoshop. There’s no “right” tool to use, but whatever works for your own process. I’m a bit old-school so I always start with pencil and paper. No matter how advanced our software is, my team and I rely heavily on sketching as a starting point. For prototyping, there’s Framer, Principle, and Origami. I’m still very new to prototyping but my team uses Flutter which is an open-sourced framework for building cross-platform UIs—learning how to use it has been challenging because it’s my first programming experience but extremely rewarding. If you have zero to little experience with these tools, I highly recommend Skillshare and Lynda for video tutorials. You can also create simple prototypes with InVision and Marvel (I used these in school), by uploading pngs and creating hotspots linking your screens.

6. What technical and non-technical skills should UX designers have?
Being a great designer also requires soft skills; everything from being a good listener and communicator, to having empathy and self-awareness. You have to understand and empathize with what your users want. We can’t assume we’re designing for people who live just like us. Take YouTube for example. In their efforts to target the next billion internet users, the research team gathered field studies from India and learned that data was costly and slow. This resulted in YouTube’s offline mode feature, but that was just the beginning. Most recently the birth of Youtube Go, a new Youtube app designed to be offline-first and work even when there’s low or no connectivity. When you think broadly for your users and from their perspective, designing effective solutions becomes easier.

7. What kind of UX projects should I work on independently?
Work on projects that allow you to solve problems involving UX thinking. It can be in the form of an app, a smart device, or even something like the redesign of way-finding at the airport! Take a look at your environment and find something that you are dissatisfied with, then figure out how you can improve that experience. Merge something that you’re passionate about with design and you’ll find your niche.

Your perspective is what makes things interesting. For example, I travel a lot and always want the most authentic experience instead of visiting the tourist-y or must-see spots. That’s hard if I don’t know any locals, which is how I got the idea (while in school) for project Loco, a concept app that connects travelers with local guides for tours or custom itineraries. Let yourself play creatively and you’ll find that your imagination is a great tool.

8. What UX resources do you recommend?
Read, watch, and listen to design articles, books, and videos by design leaders. There are tons of great interviews, podcasts, and blog posts that detail designers’ success stories and explain how teams operate at different companies. Learn about the future of design but also the history. Devouring as much as you can will expose you to how designers really work.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Virtual and in-person bootcamp design classes are also a great way to learn. I’m currently taking a class on Javascript with Codecademy! There are so many different types of classes, you’re bound to find one you’ll like. See: General AssemblyCooper UBitmakerCourseraSkillshareLynda.

Also, don’t forget to reach out and meet real designers! Attend design events run by local organizations, or conferences (like 99U and FITC), and participate in community groups like Designers Guild. I’ve met so many great designers from attending Dribbble meetups and co-hosting XX+UX happy hours. When I was just getting started in UX, I learned a lot by attending Startup Weekend and volunteering at FITC since I couldn’t afford the tickets. Just by attending, I learned a lot more about the UX world and how designers think and communicate. It’s likely that you’ll end up meeting others who are in a similar boat, and who you can learn together with. Continue putting yourself out there as you continue to learn and grow as a designer. Good luck and keep creating thoughtful design work!

If there’s something you’re still wondering about, feel free to add your question in the comments below or email me directly. And if you’re a designer about to graduate, you might find this article that I co-wrote to be more useful: The First Steps to Landing Your First Job.

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.
— IXDA

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. 

Scales

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. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

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. 

The First Steps to Landing Your First Job

Fiona Yeung

Originally published on Medium with Google Design. 

It’s your final year in school, and you can’t wait to graduate. In just a few months, you’ll be out in the real world free from essays and midterms. But just as soon as you’ll enjoy your newfound freedom, you’ll also be faced with the daunting task of figuring out where you will be in the next few months and landing a job you want. As designers, there are many potential paths to take, from entering into the agency world, to joining a design team in a large company or startup, to striking out on your own.

We’re Andre and Fiona, former interns at Google who’ve both returned for full-time positions on the Android and Material Design teams respectively. We’ve pulled together some advice for preparing for your next big step into the workforce. Whether you’re a designer or not, we hope these tips will offer some clarity and confidence as you set off for your next chapter.

Get involved

You’ve heard the statistics and have probably had moments of self-doubt, but applying and landing your first big job doesn’t need to be a scary and intimidating endeavor. Companies understand that as a new grad you won’t have much experience. What they look for is enthusiasm and talent. They like to see that you are willing to spend time growing and learning as much as you can. Do you have the ability to apply the learnings such as design tools and process to solve problems and contribute to projects independently and collaboratively? Not only do they look for hard skills, but they are also hiring for attitude, character, and culture fit. Proactivity and self-awareness are great traits to carry.

Experience doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a full-time job. Experience can come from volunteer work, freelance gigs, hackathons, and side projects. Get involved in the design community. Immerse yourself in the industry and demonstrate that you have a strong passion and are motivated for growth and learning. Twitter and Quora are both great ways to expand your network. Sharing your experiences on Medium or personal blogs (like this article!), can be a positive way to demonstrate your personality and unique voice. Don’t be afraid to reach out to designers that you’re inspired by and ask for advice or share your work!

Remember, recruiters and hiring managers are thinking, “Who is this person and what are they going to bring to my team? Can they think outside of the box?” Just the same way a senior designer is going to come in and talk about his or her work experience or portfolio, your job is to come in and show them how excited and passionate you are to start your career and how hard you’re going to work to knock their socks off.

Here are some great organizations, events, and classes that you should check out to get involved:

Know yourself

So you know you’re super excited to get your foot in the door and start working, but maybe you’re a little unsure of which type of company to go for. Ultimately, you have to understand what your values are and what you want out of your first job. How do you want to grow? What do you want to learn? You should strive for the company that has the same core values as you which will make your career more meaningful. Every company is different but there are some generalities to consider when you’re trying to find the right fit:

  • Large-size companies are good large-scale impact. They have access to tons of resources and can help with your career path but can be limiting to specific roles.
  • Startups & small agencies tend to have a higher risk and instability but they allow a breadth in roles with less bureaucracy and it typically moves faster which can be exciting.
  • Large agencies are good for having creative freedom, providing an opportunity to expand one’s stylistic range due to the wide range of clients but can often feel as though there is less ownership.
  • Freelance jobs allow you to have career freedom with less constraints, but it can be also be less stable and require more self-management.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to take some time off after graduating to do something fun like travel. Regardless of what you decide, know that there’s no need to rush. Taking a few months of personal time before starting full-time can also be a good way to learn more before you settle into the “adult” world. Fiona took a few months to go backpacking across Europe and Western North America which helped her recharge before returning to Google. It can be a great way to end one chapter before starting a new one. When we were trying to decide which path to pursue, people offered a lot of advice and opinions. In the end, we took it most with a grain of salt because our processes and learning styles are particular to us.

Think about where you see yourself in a few years. There are endless amounts of resources and mentors you can learn from. You need to ask yourself these questions, talk to a lot of people, and ultimately go with your gut. Below we’ve gathered some thoughts from fellow friends who have tried out different paths.

Sahana Kumar, Frog

“While I was trying to decide what kind of company I wanted to work for, I had to think about it in terms of what I wanted to learn, and how I wanted my career to progress. I had had experience at a small experience agency, a start up, and a large tech company, and had never quite found my fit in terms of projects I felt passionate about, and an opportunity to learn what I felt I needed. I decided that I wanted to apply exclusively to agencies because of the variety of projects I would get to experience. Although tech is super fun and lucrative, I felt I needed the well rounded experience that an agency provides. I get the opportunity to work on multidisciplinary teams and first hand experience conducting research with all different types of users. Working at an agency was an easy transition from the school environment and I find myself challenged and excited every day! I may be ready to transition and focus on a product in a tech company someday, but that will be later down the line.”

Sarah Hum, Facebook

“It was very important for me to try different things while I was still in school because I had no idea what I wanted. I started with the agency route and turned to tech, trying both startups and large companies. I will always lean towards startups. I love the fast-paced, do-or-die environment. I love the satisfaction of working with an all-star team all aligned under the same goals and all experts in their domains.

That said, I knew Facebook would give me the strong foundation that I wanted in a full-time role after school. I wanted to be challenged by the insane amount of talent here and learn how to ship products at scale. Of course, I also needed to believe in the product I would design for and working on Messenger has been very fulfilling. Facebook was an easy choice after I could match my needs with the company that would deliver. I would have had a much harder time making the decision without the internship experiences.”

Adil Majid, Spire

“School had always been incredibly frustrating for me. I didn’t like working from seemingly arbitrary prompts and having my work enter the void after being submitted. My top priority after college was to find a place where the things I designed were solving real problems and where the quality of my work would be determined not by the instructor’s tastes, but by the user. I joined a startup in order to work on a small, nimble team, be close to our users, and focus on shipping instead of endlessly iterating.
One downside is that there’s less room for wildly experimental products (since startups have less money to spend on products that may not ship). This same constraint also adds to the excitement — a startup’s survival depends on being laser-focused on providing a quality experience for its users. There’s no strong brand to rely on if you ship a bad product. As a designer at a startup you’re required to be intimately familiar with your users, be constantly user testing, and collect and analyze data in order to delight your users.”

Talk the talk

After you’ve narrowed down your options, you’ll soon find yourself interviewing. Our best tips for having successful interviews is to be yourself and show your passion. Practicing will help you talk about your process clearly and thoughtfully, but don’t overdo it either. Companies want to be able to see and understand how you think about design and how you’d approach a problem. Your ability to communicate an idea clearly is extremely important, so saying what is meant rather than hurling an arsenal of buzzwords is about clarity.

Rita DeRaedt, Google

“There’s such a thing as over practicing and too many mock interviews. Be yourself. Have a conversation. You get hired because you’re being yourself, but if you get hired because you’re a very rehearsed version of yourself, you won’t like the job.”

In addition to being able to talk about your process, it’s also important to have an online portfolio that highlights your best work and your personality. It’s always better to give the viewer a good sense of who you are, instead of just slapping a name on a website with some projects. You can show your personality through imagery and voice in your process. Tell a story and make sure your passion is expressed clearly in your work.

Evan Coutre, Box

“Interviewing and designing are similar in that they are both an iterative process. It is very unlikely you will get it right the first time. Stay encouraged. Treat it as a critique and collect as much feedback as you can and try to gauge what is working and what isn’t. Iterate accordingly until you start to get some positive feedback or results, then look to improve other parts of your process whether it’s your portfolio, your presentation, or how you sell yourself and your work.
There is a time for learning and a time for earning. When comparing companies to apply to or work for, a fair compensation package is important, however your focus coming out of college should be to find a place where you can learn the most. What you earn now is insignificant to the potential you have to earn later in your career if you maximize your learning opportunity now and become really good at what you do. Individuals learn differently: some learn by doing, some learn from others, and some need a happy medium between mentorship and autonomy. Know yourself and the best opportunity for you to learn and maximize for that.
After redesigning my portfolio and doing a couple interviews, I got to a point where I was confident that I could get past any initial phone screen or portfolio walkthrough, however I couldn’t seem to break through the final step of giving an onsite portfolio presentation. Without much feedback to go off of I could assume that there may have been a lot of variables involved with the decision and maybe I just wasn’t the exact right person at that time, but regardless of the circumstance I knew that I could improve. I reached out to others who had gone through a similar process to see what they thought made them successful and just like I did with the earlier parts of the interview process, after a few tries, I learned what interviewers were looking for, how to better articulate and sell my work, treating it more like a design problem until I saw better results, ultimately leading to offers from multiple companies.”

If you want a full in-depth guide on interviewing for design positions check out our friend, Andrew Hwang’s guide

Embrace the journey

For us, being interns at Google vs. full-time designers is different, but not that different. As an intern you are already treated like a full-time employee. The great thing about Google is that everyone has something they are excited to learn about so in the end, we all feel like students with a never-ending desire to learn more about technology, design, and ourselves. Take time during your first few months to really immerse yourself in the work culture and meet people. These people can become lifelong work friends as well as really helpful mentors. There are talented and smart people all around you, so be sure to take advantage of that.

It can be challenging being the young, new member on the team. It’s easy to feel the imposter syndrome. Remind yourself that your youthfulness and inexperience is actually an asset to the team because you are part of the next generation we are designing for — new grads carry fresh perspective, new ideas, and no prior experience or assumptions, which can be really helpful to a team of designers that know their work inside and out.

Every job and every person is different. The important thing to remember is that your are embarking on a journey, and you should treat it that way — with open eyes and a willingness to learn along the way. Focus on what you want to achieve right now in your life. See how you can combine design with other interests. Throw yourself into projects that make you feel excited and motivated. Be fearless with your decisions because this industry is always changing and so should you. #TheFirstSteps

This article was co-written by Fiona Yeung and Andre Tacuyan. Fiona is a UX Designer on the Material Design team at Google. Andre is a UX Designer on the Android team at Google.

YSDN MADE 2015 - The Gradshow

Fiona Yeung

Any way you frame it, we’re generators and synthesizers. We invent, create, and shape the world surrounding us. Design in this way unites us as makers, but it also differentiates us through process. The journey from ideation to creation is a journey of discovery, our ability to apply these discoveries is what makes us designers. Join the process.

We are born to make.

The YSDN MADE 2015 gradshow was held on April 19 and 20th at the Liberty Grand in Toronto. It was a huge success with over 1100 guests on the opening night. There were 101 students' works on display with a variety of design disciplines from some incredible packaging work to innovative app designs to poster ideas that make you really think. It's quite incredible how much diverse talent there is in this program. If you're looking to hire, please do check out the students in this program. They won't disappoint. Our gradshow site that features the student works can be viewed here. Check it out! 

The Making Of...
I am extremely proud of the show this year because it's organized completely by the graduating class from fundraising thousands and thousands of dollars, finding sponsors,  to picking a new venue, creating installations and designing a cohesive brand. There are several head committees with smaller sub-teams within each committee. I was the project manager of the Interface team which was under the Identity team umbrella. My team was in charge of the iPad UI/UX design, several of the installations that included a Kinect motion wall, a infograph wall, and a Arduino drawing machine. I think we all learned a lot about working together and how to properly set deadlines and meet goals that originally seemed so far away. Putting together a big show like this wasn't easy while balancing extracurriculars, freelance, and let's not forget being a full-time student! But with all the efforts of our class together, it turned into a very very proud and satisfying final 3 days of our undergrad life. 

What's next?
It's an extremely strange thought knowing that I won't have any more classes to attend at school. What's next for me? I plan on travelling a lot in between now until September. I will be going to California for a few weeks, and then an exciting 5 week backpacking trip in Europe after that! I'm really looking forward to my future and all the exciting months ahead of me. I have a job lined up for me in September at Google in California so I'll be making my big move in the Fall, but for now, I'll be focusing on exploring the world and learning more about what's out there. 

But I guess this is it. I am officially finished with YSDN! No more classes, no more essays, no more university days. Thank you to those who have supported me for the last 4 years. The last few days have been bittersweet. Best of luck to all my incredibly talented design friends. Let's kill it out there! #YSDNMADEIT

XX+UX Toronto

Fiona Yeung

XX+UX is a happy hour for women in UX. The goal has been to foster a community of like-minded designers, researchers, and women in tech who meet up periodically. User experience design (UX) has exploded in the last few years with a visible and increasing demand for UX at large companies, at small start-ups, and for freelancers. And yet, like tech in general, men are still over-represented in the field.

The first XX+UX event was held at Google HQ in October 2013, where attendees created “story cards” that represented themselves or their journey into UX. Since then, there have been 20+ XX+UX meetups in the Bay Area, Austin, Paris, New York, London, and Sydney thanks to partnerships with LinkedIn, Salesforce, Pinterest, Etsy, Airbnb, Medium, and more. 

Last summer while interning at Google, I helped co-organize one of the meetups with Pinterest. When I returned home, my goal was to host Toronto's first XX+UX meetup. After connecting with some people, I partnered with Normative to organize and co-host XX+UX in Toronto. 

While there are several design events in Toronto on any given day, it was nice to have one dedicated for women in tech. The night started off  with treats catered by The County General and Moo Milk Bar and then later a DIY marker mug activity. We asked the ladies to write down the name of a woman that inspires them. The event had a great turn-out and we were happy to see a lot of mingling and happy faces.

I look forward to hosting more XX+UX events so if you're interested in co-hosting a XX+UX meetup in Toronto or another city, feel free to email me

Below are some photos from the event. See the full album here

YSDN Made

Fiona Yeung

Any way you frame it, we’re generators and synthesizers. We invent, create, and shape the world surrounding us. Design in this way unites us as makers, but it also differentiates us through process. The journey from ideation to creation is a journey of discovery, our ability to apply these discoveries is what makes us designers.
— YSDN Class of 2015

As crazy as it sounds, I'll be graduating in April from the York/Sheridan joint program in design! Our graduating class has been working extremely hard organizing the grad show that will be held at the Liberty Grand in Toronto from April 19th-21st. It's incredibly exciting to finally be a part of the grad show process after watching the upper years do it for the last 3 years.

Each year, the grad show has a different theme and brand. Ours is called YSDN MADE, because no matter what our process is, design unites all of us as makers. Each student was asked to create their own version of the MADE logo. This is what mine looked like in the end! I wanted mine to reflect myself as an artist and designer, showing my roots in painting and how going to a fine arts high school has helped influence me as a designer. I want my MADE logo to be playful, colourful, and full or energy. It was really refreshing  to do something hands-on since I have been doing a lot more digital work lately. 

If you're curious, check out our YSDN MADE 2015 Gradshow site here

A Googley Summer: Things I Learned

Fiona Yeung

I can't believe I'm writing this already but 13 weeks have flown by and I'm sad to say that my internship at Google has officially ended. I'm thankful and grateful for this internship because I got to meet a ton of talented, inspiring, and awesome people at Google and also in the Bay Area. The people here are truly amazing and I will definitely stay in-touch with them. It is so important for a company to have great people in order to have a great culture and Google definitely has a ton of them. 

People often ask me what the greatest perks at Google are or what are some of my favourite things there. Of course, the free food and fun events are a plus, but I have to admit, it's the people and the amount of resources/classes that are available to us that I truly love the most. When I say resources, I don't mean technology and products, but more so the amount of people that are available to help me grow and learn. I've really taken advantage of that this summer by setting up one-on-one lunches, or coffee chats with people that I think I can gain insight, wisdom and knowledge from. 

I've learned a lot about design, the development process, user researchers' roles, and also how important everyone is in order to successfully launch a product. I've also gotten to develop my presentation skills and communication skills too by having a lot of 1:1s with people and by presenting my work in front of my entire team. 

The one-on-ones and mentorship I had with various people including Matias Duarte, Jon Wiley, Nicholas Jitkoff, Mike Buzzard, Noah Levin, Dickson Fong, etc, across the company were invaluable and taught me so much. Each 1:1 was very special to me and I learned something new in each of them ranging from school advice, to understanding more about user research, or how kids think, to desirable skills to have, to learning how to follow your gut. 

 UX Design interns with  Matias Duarte,  VP of Design, Android, 

UX Design interns with Matias Duarte, VP of Design, Android, 

Some of the key skills that were desirable to have were listening, communication, people skills, and empathy. It really goes to show how important it is to be able to understand people and to communicate effectively. It's powerful and effective in creating better design solutions, better work collaboration and in general, to become a better well-rounded co-worker, designer, and friend. 

A few other things that I learned from Google

  • Be a T-shaped person; have breath of knowledge, and depth of expertise
  • Follow your gut. There will always be push vs pulls when making a decision
  • Don't be afraid to take risks. 
  • Realize and understand your values and what you want to do, and find a place that aligns with that.
  • Find your passion and immerse yourself in your craft
  • Be motivated. Be a self-starter. Be willing to learn. 
  • Never be afraid to ask for help.
  • Surround yourself with people smarter than you. 
 Google Social team 

Google Social team 

 Funtastic 4 (Google+ UX Design interns)

Funtastic 4 (Google+ UX Design interns)