Humanity-centered: Design Notes with Airbnb’s Steve Selzer

This time I had a chat with Steve Selzer, Experience Design Manager at Airbnb. Originally I met Steve at MCE in Warsaw where he gave a talk on designing friction into products intentionally, an idea that sounds counterintuitive but one that highlights the importance of reflection and self-actualization in every experience.

After you listen to the episode, check out Steve's posts on Medium for more, and don't forget to share the episode if you like it :)

  • Steve’s journey to Design & Airbnb
  • Designing friction back into products
    • What does this mean?
      • This doesn’t mean making things harder intentionally
    • Friction can help us reflect and discover and grow
  • Friction and non-friction are mostly invisible, so how does the user experience that?
    • Feeling the friction and expressing it
    • How can we help people set the right expectation? 
  • Mass-produced tourism vs real connection
    • Authentic connection isn’t necessarily sold explicitly
    • You’re looking for a home, but you can connect outside the home as well
  • Other types of friction in interfaces
    • YouTube’s search results experiment
    • Outcome-driven friction
      • Working backwards from the outcome
    • Behavioral economics
    • Design as manipulation
  • Humanity-centered design
    • The responsibility of affecting behavior at scale
    • How do we help people understand themselves better to make decisions faster instead? 
    • Outcome vs values
  • Let the machine make me fit
    • You can already do whatever you want, but you feel like you need to be fit
  • Get me there fast, and coming back to the process
    • We should lean into this to move the conversation forward
    • What is the next challenge?
    • Values shift - as we reach saturation with one thing, the unfulfilled need creates a new inflection point
    • No time to reflect on changes
  • Being driven by outcomes and human qualities at the same time
    • Actually caring can be good for business
    • This introduces new complexities and responsibilities
  • Identifying where we belong as designers in relation to the product and other people
    • We are human translators
    • Our ability to empathize is why we aren’t reliably objective
  • Human-centered vs user-centered
    • Our product in the context of all the things that influence a person
    • What is our contribution?
    • A responsibility to innovate against strong vectors

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