What led you into design?
I've been designing and building websites since my teenage years (early 2000s), and studied Graphic Design in university. Back then, when I was in university (2003-2007), UX design wasn't a term, but web design was already pretty much something that people do.
When I graduated in 2007, I was always set into starting a career in graphic design. But as luck would have it, I got a job at Oracle, designing an e-learning platform on the web, and this was when I really learned about UI and eventually UX design. I remember the first tool I used to design UI was Adobe Illustrator.
What does a typical day look like?
I would start my day with breakfast outside with my wife, most often a long walk or bike ride together. This habit started after Covid, as I increasingly worked from home and needed a way to get outside and “fake” the commute a bit. But eventually, it became a good habit, and a good bonding moment with my wife. This typically starts at 8am and ends around 10am when we get home. Soon after, I start my work, usually by responding messages on Slack, email or JIRA. I would also review comments on documents.
I seldom start deep work in the morning, I do dedicate time for that after lunch and try to avoid meetings from 1 to 3pm. I'd have some meetings after 3pm just to sync with my teammates if necessary. Deep work includes designing on Figma, reviewing tickets, doing desk research or writing/reviewing documents.
I usually have a small afternoon break, maybe 30-60 minutes at 3 or 4pm depending on if there is a meeting or not. I have coffee, play with my daughter who is now at home, helping her with homework and stuff.
I continue with a bit of work until 6pm, when I truly have a hard stop. I seldom have to work late in the night, except if there is a meeting with US or Europe (I live in Singapore).
What's your workstation setup?
Where do you go to get inspired?
I get inspired through reading, be it online or offline. I read other designer's minds through Substack, Medium or their personal blogs. My favourite author is Jan Chipchase, as I am passionate about cultural differences and localizations.
I sometimes watch YouTube tutorial for Figma since I am quite bad at tooling.
I also get inspired by my daughter. She sometimes says or does something that might spark a thought that I didn't really imagine before. For example, she would make a Lego piece that is unique to her own thought. She'd also find a different use case for an object, for example, using her skateboard to “deliver” a letter for me. It's fun, and rewarding.
I also usually take a stroll or venture out in my own city (Singapore). There's a lot of inspiration in daily, mundane life. If I can travel outside the country, I also do that. I think there's no better way to inspire a designer than seeing and observing the real life.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
My wife found a cheap desktop vacuum cleaner that I now regularly use for my desk at home, I think there's a use case for small vacuum cleaners that are easy to use and reach. It doesn't need to be sophisticated, and I think good design is often very simple and doesn't require a lot of resources.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
Three pieces of work so far.
One is a whole redesign of an Indonesia-based C2C marketplace that was in its infancy, called Bukalapak. Mind you, this was quite old (2012-2013) and thus the design reflects that year of design with a lot of Mac-inspired UI. I was the first UX designer in the startup, I took a pay cut to join that company, but I felt it was one of the most rewarding tasks I've ever taken. There was an awesome energy and “can-do” attitude in the company, and there was also the first time I learned designing for Android mobile native devices.
Second was an onboarding flow that I designed for a Singapore-based bank. This flow is used for customers who just signed up for internet banking to get started and log in for the first time. This was a proud moment because it's quite a strategic project in the company, important for the customers, and a very end-to-end project that I led that included a comprehensive UX research sessions with real customers and multiple internal workshops, as well as the first truly responsive design that was shipped for the banking platform.
The third one was actually more like a research project that my team led during my tenure at Homeaway/Vrbo, a holiday rental platform owned by Expedia. As a US-centric product, a lot of the features in the site don't take into account the local nuances of Asian customers. For example, they didn't understand that Asian travellers don't expect to cook when they go on holiday, don't usually bring their pets, and have trust issue staying at holiday rentals. At the other side of it, the homeowners who rent their place out in Asia also struggles with traveller expectations. So, our design team in Asia Pacific was tasked and initiated to embark on understanding Asian travellers better. We took the initiatives to select Japan as our base for the research, as the country takes in a lot of international and domestic tourists, and have local holiday rental players. We did a week-long research in two cities, Tokyo and Nagano, interviewing both travellers and homeowners. The end product was a play book to design for Japanese and Asian market, that was very well-received internally.
What design challenges do you face at your company?
Balancing between long-term innovation and short-term shipping, managing stakeholder expectations (up, down and around) and putting the craft high up to the standards.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Sometimes ambition is not going to take you to where you're going, but pacing yourself does. Treat your career as an adventure more than a goal. Enjoy the moments and don't go there too fast. :)
Anything you want to promote or plug?
I run a UX newsletter called Unlearn UX – please subscribe! :-)