Human Enough: Design Notes with Manuel Clément and Robbie Tilton of Google’s Daydream VR Labs

This week I spoke with Manuel Clément and Robbie Tilton of Google’s Daydream VR labs.

Manuel’s experiences include designing for Chrome and the incredibly nuanced the UI of self driving cars, and Robbie’s background includes designing for non-traditional displays including Google Glass.

In the episode, we cover everything from the “human enough” experience of seeing other people represented as googley eyes, to how to make mundane tasks more human, to how 2D designers can get up and running for virtual reality. Here's a full rundown:

  • How Robbie & Manuel got to where they are
    • Chrome’s offline t­rex game: how does something like that get designed into a major product?
  • ­What’s exciting about VR?
    • ­­Exploring people’s imaginations
      • ­­Will VR overtake “tv?”
    • ­­Discovery and the simple things
    • ­­Becoming a kid again
  • ­Sketching for VR
    • ­­Start with a person
    • ­­You’re designing a world, not just buttons and cursors
    • ­­Act it out
  • ­Becoming a VR believer
    • ­­Seeing your hands
    • ­­Experiencing the impossible
    • ­Discovering our virtual hands and feet
    • How the brain adapts to flower hands
    • ­Googley eyes are ­ surprisingly ­ human enough
    • ­Open ended experiences
  • ­Mundane experiences
    • ­How do we make something like a spreadsheet more human?
      • ­Why do spreadsheets even exist?
  • ­Daydream home and “in between” experiences
    • ­Laser pointer UI
  • ­How can designers used to 2D UIUX get up and running for VR?
    • ­Learn 3D modeling
      • ­Try two tools and find the UI you’re comfortable with
    • ­Know how to “sketch” for VR
    • ­Learn about game environment design
    • ­Work in pairs with someone who has different skills than you

Recommended watching:

VR at Google

Daydream Labs: Lessons learned from VR prototyping

VR Design process

with Jason Schwartz and Alex Sheyn of Avondale Type Co

For this episode of Design Notes, I spoke with Jason Schwartz and Alex Sheyn, creative director and designer respectively at a foundry that consistently produces impressive work, including an artist series featuring artists and designers from the community.

In the episode, we covered a lot - from the beginnings of ATC to what goes into designing typefaces, all the way to the challenges type designers and foundries face when it comes to distribution and licensing.

Before we look at the full rundown, take a sec to check out ATC online and find Jason and Alex on Twitter.

  • Journey to Avondale
    • Bright Bright Great’s type-heavy projects
    • The learning curve
    • Getting fonts into people’s hands
  • Wait, who am I talking to?
    • Alex, concerned with the type
    • Jason, creative director
  • ATC’s Process
    • Where typeface names come from
    • Diving into Glyphs
    • Handwriting and humanist
    • In-use testing, living with a typeface
  • Testing
    • Put the pieces together
    • Convey an emotion
    • Personality vs emotion
  • Where the software of type can improve
    • Managing typefaces
    • Updating
    • Distribution in general
    • Beta testing
  • Piracy and licensing
    • What licenses mean
    • Possible ways to protect files
      • Who would be the first to do it?
    • iTunes vs distribution
  • Type’s impact on viewers
    • Intent vs usage
    • Seeing a font in use
    • Type trends
      • Everything can’t be helvetica all day
  • Type, design, and culture

with Max Ignatyev of Sympli

This week I spoke with Max Ignatyev, the founder of, a tool that bridges apps like Photoshop and Sketch with IDEs like Android Studio and X Code to ease collaboration between developers and designers. Here's the full rundown:

  • What is Sympli?
    • How does Sympli compare to competitors like Zeplin?
  • The journey to creating Sympli
    • Being non-standard in non-standard ways
    • Tracking design changes and automation
    • Design handoff, collaboration, and implementation
  • What kind of tool would accommodate early design collaborations?
    • Tracking design changes
    • Open source for designers
  • The design process at Sympli
    • Designing for designers and developers in the same tool
    • Sympli’s full redesign
      • … Was made with Sympli
  • Choosing and imagining new features
    • Until robots take over
  • Will AI design and develop?
  • Project Comet/Adobe XD
    • Photoshop vs building a design tool on purpose
    • Adobe building a new tool from scratch, without legacy

with Ryan Oldenburg of Pushbullet

For this episode of DESIGN NOTES, I spoke with Ryan Oldenburg, the founder of Pushbullet. Pushbullet, for those who don't know, is a service that allows users to "push" files and info back and forth between their various devices, from a simple interface that integrates with Chrome and Android's system sharing interface.

During our chat, Ryan and I covered a lot of topics, from Pushbullet's vision and product design to the design process at Pushbullet, to opinionated design and even monetization and advertising in today's app and web economies. Here's a full rundown:

  • Pushbullet's story and vision
    • How do you define done-ness?
  • How did Pushbullet evolve into its messaging-style interface
    • A process users are familiar with that lends itself to simple back-and-forth record keeping
  • Design at Pushbullet
    • The constraints of time and effort
    • Having an overall goal and measuring design choices against that
    • An app you don't even need to open
    • Ensuring you have extensible design solutions
      • Keeping Android extensible and light
  • Biting into the hamburger menu and opinionated design
    • How UI patterns work
    • Measuring the wrong metrics
    • If everything is bold, nothing is bold
    • Software voice
    • Everything can't be the main thing
    • Actually, we're all still figuring out how to do things on mobile
    • Users aren't static entities, and they'll get what they want
    • Feature draw
  • Monetization and sustainability in the app ecosystem
    • How Pushbullet arrived at its subscription model
    • Users are used to free software
    • Subscription vs Ads vs IAP
  • Advertising specifically
    • The internet
    • People get paid to do things, so where does that come from?
    • How ads spiraled out
    • Ads will bottom out and recover
      • It's in everyone's interest to be "that one guy" 
  • Presenting things to the public
    • Final result vs thought process

with Dina Rodriguez of LetterShoppe

For the first episode of 2016 and the first episode ever streamed live on Twitch, I spoke with Dina Rodriguez of LetterShoppe. Dina is an artist with an amazing skill for hand-lettering and a penchant for sharing her knowledge in as many ways as possible, including her live Twitch stream at

In this episode, we talked about getting inspiration, looking at projects from a new angle, the ins and outs of streaming creative work live, and the benefits of being transparent in your work. See the full rundown below!

  • Dina’s journey to hand lettering
  • The distinctions between hand lettering and traditional typography
    • Hand drawn fonts
    • Visual interest, uniqueness, and conceptual expression
      • You can’t fake authenticity
    • Pacifico and Lobster
  • Process: how much material is on the cutting room floor?
    • Usage rights
    • Keeping your sketches
  • Process: Context and stepping back
    • Taking breaks
    • Turning things upside-down
      • Fill in your letters!
    • Using context for inspiration vs breaking out of context
    • Getting original ideas from inspiration by using your memory
  • Process: how do you decide when the work’s done?
    • Go to 90% and avoid falling off the cliff
  • Color: creating and choosing palettes
    • Logos & branding: Single color importance
    • Logos & branding: the re-skin trend
  • Twitch streaming
    • How the creative community expanded on Twitch
    • The League of Letters and engaging candidly with a community
      • Goals & Twitch perks
    • Viewers are great for community AND for improving your work during the actual process
    • It’s scary to get started, but do it anyway
    • This is not a webinar!
  • Transparency
    • Importance of talking about failure
  • Advertising & promotion as a freelancer
  • The best way to learn is to teach
  • Q&A from chat!