Khoi Vinh — Adobe
Based in Brooklyn, Khoi is the Senior Director of Product Design at Adobe and was previously design director for The …
To be completely honest: it was quite accidental. I studied advertising back in the day, and always dreamed of working as an art director in an ad agency, creating ad campaigns and punny headlines for big brands out there. Then a good friend of mine referred me to this internship position at the biggest digital agency in Brazil to work as an “Information Architect”. I had no idea what that was, but was up for the challenge. I remember myself Googling things like “sitemap” and “wireframes” the night before the interview.
I got the job, and that was when my love for interfaces started. We then changed our name to “Interaction Designers”, and later on to “UX Designers”, and our discipline quickly evolved into, in my opinion, one of the most exciting challenges within the Design field: representing the user’s wants and needs throughout the design process.
My role is to lead the Experience Design team at R/GA San Francisco, and steer the team into creating intuitive, engaging experiences that people want to visit, use, and visit again. Before I start juggling between meetings, whiteboarding sessions and workshops, I like to start my mornings with a good cup of coffee and a calm look at my feeds – to get some inspiration, updates on the industry, and articles that are more focused on UX process and best practices.
While in meetings, I’m usually being the voice that represents the users of the products, services and campaigns we are creating, and encouraging other team members to put themselves into their users’ shoes. When I get a break in my calendar, I’m usually walking around other people’s desks, looking at the work they are doing to see how can make things stronger and more consistent. Creating design systems is all about consistency, and all these years working in UX have shaped my brain to be quite attentive to details.
I’m pretty low profile when it comes to having the latest and greatest equipment. I am able to go through the day with a 13” Macbook Pro, a standing desk, and an iPhone plus.
In terms of software: I rarely use any. Since Google is one of our main clients in our San Francisco office, I spend most of my computer time on Google Slides, Google Docs, and Google Spreadsheets. Even when I need to create quick wireframes or flows, I rely a lot on Google Slides for that – it might not be the most refined design tool in the market, but the level of collaboration it enables makes a big difference when you are working at an agency with 19 offices worldwide, and you are collaborating with at least 2 or 3 of them at any given day.
My phone homescreen, as anything else in my life, has to follow some logic:
I am a bit obsessed with reading online: that’s how I learned a lot of what I know about UX. I have a Digg Reader account set up with more than 800 feeds that I check out everyday, so it would be impossible to list all of them. But to name a few of my favorites: A List Apart, The Verge, User Onboard, Co.Design.
What is interesting is that when I started in design more than a decade ago, there wasn’t a lot of content available about UX online (especially in Portuguese, my native language), so in the first years of my career I had to create my own repository of knowledge in a way.
Fast forward a few years, and the blog that I started as a little side project turned out to become the biggest Medium publication about UX in the world. I have been using my blog as a way to organize, curate and digest a lot of the things I learn at work, and to share that with other people who might benefit from it.
Sharing content has become both a side project and a hobby for me.
So I want to do it with a purpose.
Now that the industry has awaken to the value and importance of UX Design to business, you see a lot of blogs and design sites that are trying to profit in some way – either through sponsored posts, content marketing, or just articles that are trying to sell you on what the best design tool is, or on the design book you must buy to solve all your career problems. We don’t make any money out of uxdesign.cc and don’t ever plan to.
Writing and sharing content online can bring writers a lot of visibility — and letting that become a primary driver of your editorial is quite tempting. But when you do so, content becomes shallow and driven solely by numbers. Everyday you have to force yourself to remember about your broader mission: giving something valuable back to the community.
At the risk of sounding cliche: Apple’s UI for when you connect your AirPods to your iPhone is pretty impressive. The way the UI seamlessly animates in and out the screen as you open and close the case is a good reminder that these little delightful moments can exist even at the most functional moments of the user experience.
They say your most recent work is always your favorite. At R/GA, we have recently created a special type of chatbot for small business in partnership with Reply.ai, one of the startups from our Ventures program.
Chatbots allow companies to improve customer service and increase sales. But, however simple they appear, building chatbots requires considerable creative and technical expertise, time, and money. These restraints make chatbots inaccessible to most small businesses.
BotBot allows small businesses to build chatbots in minutes, not months, without assistance, through a simple conversational interface.
These businesses have a massive opportunity to communicate effectively with their customers on a daily basis, selling products or saving customer service staff time—while improving customer experience—just by building a custom bot.
Case study video:
It’s funny, because before this project I hadn’t really come to the realization that conversational interfaces are as important, relevant and hard to craft as more traditional pixel-centric interfaces.
Technology is evolving at a really rapid pace, and our role as designers is evolving as well. When you design conversational interfaces, the baseline design principles are the same – but you do have to develop new design skills to be able to deliver experiences that are relevant, delightful and easy to use. The difference when you are building a chatbot is that most of that experience happens through words.
I guess the biggest challenge that our industry in general faces is designing interfaces that tell a story. I see a lot of designers out there who are great systematic thinkers and can craft really well-polished interfaces with great usability and astonishing visuals, that still lack on storytelling.
What is the story the design is trying to tell?
Interfaces can’t simply be functional. They have to be human, because they are designed by humans and will be used by humans. I feel like that is the biggest gap (and opportunity) in our industry right now. One way I’ve been trying to solve for that is through a simple design exercise that I run before jumping into thinking about the interface: writing a script for the interface narrative. Just words on paper. Stripping away all the visual clutter can help you focus on the core of the message you are trying to communicate.
You don’t have to know everything about everything.
Because our industry evolves pretty rapidly, our first reaction as designers is to try to catch up with everything that is going on: every new tool, every new technology, every new channel, every new design pattern that comes up.
All that pressure can create panic, FOMO, uncertainty – you name it.
Instead, focus on what people need. What are they looking for, and how can your product help? That, will never change.
I guess I have written a lot already, so I’ll just share my personal links here: