Product Designer at Mixpanel


JonYablonski (Product Designer at Mixpanel)

Jon is a Detroit-based multidisciplinary designer and author focused on building digital tools that empower people and augment their abilities.

Detroit, United States • May 31, 2024

What led you into design?

My design journey began at Memphis College of Art, which emphasized traditional art education with a focus on art history, visual foundations, and exploring different media. I experimented with printmaking, painting, and photography, but graphic design was my consistent passion. Shortly after graduation, I realized the need for an online portfolio but I didn’t know how to code and there weren't many good no-code options available at the time. So, I started learning coding on my own. I still remember printing out the source code from websites I liked, studying each line and trying to understand it. When the iPhone was released in 2007, the shift towards digital accelerated and I became immersed in the challenges and opportunities of designing for the web. I quickly gravitated towards interaction design and front-end web development and sought out opportunities to do more design work involving them.

A significant moment in my journey early on was the opportunity to work on a project for Boingo, a mobile internet access provider. This project involved redesigning their web presence, ensuring accessibility via any device, and improving the overall user experience. It was a trial-by-fire opportunity that challenged me to learn new things and exposed me to UX design. From that point on, I knew UX was where I wanted to focus and sought out roles and opportunities that would deepen my knowledge.

Boingo rebrand screenshots
Boing Rebrand, circa 2014

Over the years, I've increased my knowledge and skills through working in various roles at different companies and industries. Each experience has taught me something new and expanded my knowledge in the discipline. I've worked at boutique design studios, in-house design teams, experience/technology agencies, and corporations. I also focus on side projects, which allows me to learn and gain experience with things that I don't get a chance to do with my client work.

Cadillc Celestiq, Boom Supersonic, Ford Smart City

What does a typical day look like?

My typical day begins early before my family wakes up. I start by making coffee and focusing on daily activities: prioritizing tasks and goals, writing, and research. I can easily get distracted with side projects, so this routine helps ground me and keeps me focused on what matters and aligns with my goals. Once I finish my morning routine, I check email and social media, responding or triaging as needed. Then it's time for a workout, which I've come to look forward to because of the additional focus and energy it produces. I believe that the ability to think clearly and efficiently starts with taking care of yourself and prioritizing both mental and physical health.

Next, I pivot from my routine to work, which begins with prioritizing what I need to accomplish for the day. Since I'm in the Eastern Time Zone, mornings are an excellent time for me to focus on work before my teammates on the West Coast come online. I typically begin by reviewing notes in Notion and Slack, creating tasks, and moving things around on a Kanban board to track status before moving into heads-down work in Figma/Figjam. Afternoons are usually structured around meetings, collaboration sessions, and additional heads-down time. I've also started working on summaries of my work during this time of day so I can keep my team up-to-date asynchronously. Loom has been invaluable for this.

Evenings are typically spent hanging out with my family. We cook a lot at home and love to have friends over, especially when the weather is nice (which is not always the case in Michigan). Once things settle down, I'll typically close out the day by tinkering with side projects, reflecting on goals, or watching the occasional show or documentary.

What's your workstation setup?

Office desk setup

Where do you go to get inspired?

I love to travel, meet new friends, and exchange ideas. Conferences are a fantastic way to accomplish all of these, so I try to give talks whenever possible. Although they require a lot of effort and energy, the excitement and rejuvenation I gain from a great event inspires me for a long time.

I also enjoy art and try to visit museums whenever possible. My favorite museums are MoMA (in SF and NYC) and The Whitney, but I also appreciate smaller galleries like Cranbrook, which is close by and features rotating exhibits as well as an impressive collection of mid-century modern artifacts from figures like Charles & Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, and Florence Knoll.

Disconnecting and getting out in nature is another source of inspiration for me. It may sound like a contradiction, but I often come up with new ideas for my work when I take a break and go off-grid. Whether it's camping, canoeing, fishing, or hiking, I return to my work with renewed energy and drive.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

I use Notion for absolutely everything and it’s new AI product has been a great addition to my workflow. It’s such a practical implementation of generative AI that’s seamlessly embedded right into the app. I believe that technology should augment our abilities and recede into the background when not needed, and Notion AI does exactly that.

Notion AI homepage

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I am incredibly proud of my project, Laws of UX. It started as a relatively simple resource that I needed but couldn’t find on the web and has expanded over the years. I frequently hear from folks who reach out to share how valuable this project has been for them, which means a lot to me. It’s humbling to know that something you’ve created has helped a lot of people around the world and continues to do so.

Laws of UX principles
Laws of UX card deck
Laws of UX book translations

Another project I’m very proud of is Humane by Design. I believe that people want technology to empower them: amplify their abilities and make their lives easier. The reality is that many products and services—even the ones that are renowned for being well-designed—sometimes use exploitative practices that monopolize people’s time and attention, prioritizing business goals over human goals. This project provides guidance for designing ethically humane digital products and services through patterns focused on user well-being.

Humane by Design homepage
Humane by Design principles
Humane by Design Homepage

What design challenges do you face at your company?

A big design challenge we face at Mixpanel is what’s known as the power/simplicity trade-off. We want product analytics to be accessible to everyone and empower them to be data-driven. The challenge is that teams often have to choose between tools that are easy to use but lack the ability to answer complex questions, or tools that have more power but are slow and difficult to use. We’ve faced this challenge by focusing our work around core UX principles: interactive, composable, and collaborative.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I’m incredibly excited about the second edition of my book, Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services, which has recently been released. This new edition builds upon the foundation of the first edition and includes additional information linking these principles to psychology concepts, UX techniques, and key design considerations. It also features updated examples throughout, making it a practical guide for designers who want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in the field of design.

2nd edition of the Laws of UX book

I’m always cooking up something new, so follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or my personal site for updates!