January 31, 2022No Comments

Being Positive [Covid Isolation Ward Series #1]

Please Protect the Society

"Ding Dong!"

Someone rang the doorbell of my hotel room. I opened the door.

A medical personnel in head-to-toe pandemic protective gear was standing at the door. He looked like an astronaut, and bigger than average man because of the gear.

"Ms. You?" He asked. "Yes." I said.

"Wear this." He said, handing me a plastic package.

It was a bag full of pandemic protective gears.

I probably looked confused as I took out each item. He said, "First, put on the hair net. And then, put on the mask."

I put on the hair net and struggled with the N95 mask with double straps that messed up my hair and my glasses.

"Now put on the gloves, and then put on the gown." He said. He taught me how to pull the waist straps of the gown from the back to the front and fasten them.

"Now, put on this other pair of gloves, make sure they cover the sleeves of your gown." He said. I obeyed, again struggling with the outer layers of the latex gloves that wanted to stick to the inner layer of gloves.

"Face shield." He said, handing me a plastic face shield after I finally got the outer gloves on. I put on the face shield over my messed-up hair and crooked glasses.

"Let's go." He said. I put on my backpack, swang my duffel bag onto my shoulder and started wheeling my big luggage from my holiday to the US out of the room.

I got Covid during the last days of my Christmas holidays in the US, and tested positive while being in quarantine in Taiwan. I was now a walking virus and being transferred to a government-operated isolation ward.

Have a Cold, On an Ambulance

Another medical personnel motioned to me to get into the pandemic ambulance when we reached the ground floor of the quarantine hotel.

I climbed into the ambulance with my backpack and my duffel bag. I looked at my luggage and said, "Sorry, I need help with my luggage."

The medical personnel looked at me, and then looked at my luggage for 3 seconds before he reluctantly touched and lifted the luggage, squeezing it onto the ambulance.

If you're treating me like a patient, I thought, then I'm going to demand all the help. Damn it, I'm getting into the ambulance by myself already!

I had never been in an ambulance before and was surprised at how crowded it was. The cot was small. My luggage barely fit in the space that was left. A big sheet of black plastic bag was pasted between the driver's compartment and the patient's compartment to separate them. The ambulance sped loudly through the rush-hour traffic with windows wide open, the plastic flapped constantly in the wind.

I had been having a mild sore throat for a few days, and it was almost gone after a few good night's sleep. I couldn't believe how I felt - a mild cold - was the reason why I was on an ambulance. I listened to the siren that didn't go away like it usually does, and wondered where I was going.

My New Stay

I did have a little idea where I was going. Just a little.

Before I got ready for the ambulance, I texted my sister who also works at a hospital.

"Do you know which hospital you're going to?" She texted back.

"They said the military hospital up north." I replied. The nurse at the quarantine hotel told me where I was assigned to by the Center for Disease Control.

"Oh, I've been there to interview once. It's a small hospital, and really old." She replied.

My heart sank. I started to imagine a small room with peeling walls and moldy smells.

The next text came. "There's a mango orchard right beside the hospital."

My spirit lifted a little bit. The scene of a mango orchard somehow made it all better. Perhaps I'd be able to see mango trees from outside of my window. That wouldn't be too bad.

Before I was able to send my reply - "Oh that sounds nice!" - the next text came.

"That's where they bury all the medical waste and broken medical equipment."

My heart sank again, even deeper than before.

"Well, I hope my room won't be on the ground floor." I texted back with a sigh.

"No. Your room will be on the top floor. Ventilation requirement for contagious diseases." She replied.

Remembering all this in the ambulance, I took a deep breath and wondered how all her prophesies were going to unfold.


After what felt like a century the ambulance stopped moving. I got out of the ambulance and was promptly ushered into a small examination room that was attached to the outside of the ER.

The exam room had a small anteroom in the front where medical personnel can change in and out of protective gear and wash their hands. A narrow cot lied in the middle of the room crowded by a few old medical equipments on one side and a toilet on the other, separated by a piece of curtain. I waited there and feared that was going to be my room.

A nurse later came in and put a pink band with a barcode on my wrist after she checked my blood pressure and body temperature.

"Okay, let's go to your room! I can help take a bag if you'd like." She said light-heartedly. I thanked her and let her take the duffel bag.

"You people coming back from overseas always have a lot of luggage." She said, maybe with a smile but I couldn't see. She was also wearing full protective gear.

We turned around the side of the ER and started walking down a small road outside towards what looked like the back of the hospital. The pandemic personnel and patients have to take a different route from regular hospital visitors.

I dragged my big luggage along the dimly lit alley that wound around the hospital, and I passed a few trees. I looked up. There they were, mango trees. I looked at the bottom of the trees, wondering what's underneath.

Then we turned a corner and started walking down a small corridor that looked like the basement of the hospital. On both sides of the corridor were piles of old equipment and machines you'd see in a hospital. A broken 4-seater bench lay beside an old desk, across from a rusty machine with its plug hanging to the side.

"I thought they buried the stuff." I wondered to myself.

We went in a big freight elevator at the end of the corridor, and the nurse pressed 9.

Top floor. My penthouse.

(to be continued)

July 10, 2021No Comments

Stop hating on Dribbble [Design Writing Challenge #6]

Many designers dislike Dribbble because they don't think the shots are "real-world designs." I find Dribbble a very valuable resource and here's why.

Dribbble is a perfect place to:

Observe design trends

Companies and clients don't want their products to look like they were made in the early 90's no matter how great the usability is, unless their brand aesthetic is all about the early 90's!

People see modern designs and like their products to look modern, even though they don't know how to articulate them. Designers need to be sensitive to design trends.

Find visual treatment examples

Sometimes I run into problems styling certain elements on a page. Maybe a form has too many fields, or a table cell has too much text.

I often find it useful to hop on Dribbble and look at how other designers treat certain elements. Perhaps they lighten certain labels or add icons at certain places. It helps me consider options that I haven't thought of.

Be inspired by layout possibilities

Dribbble is a great place to look at a lot of examples all at once. For example, I can search for "Dashboard" and instantly see a ton of different ways to design dashboards -- with different layouts, color schemes or typographical treatments.

I can then take these inspirations and experiment with my own designs and see what works.

Dribbble is not a place to:

Find examples of good usability

Dribbble shots provide very little info on who the customers are, the problems to be solved, or any data on how well the design performs if it's shipped at all. For inspirations on usability, case studies or UX research articles would be more helpful.

Learn about problem-solving process

Again, Dribbble shots do not provide information on how the shots were designed. To learn about the problem-solving process, reading design case studies would be more useful.

Find designs that you can copy and paste into your work

You may look at a Dribbble shot and think, "well, that'd never work with my current project."

And you're right. Nothing will work for your current project unless YOU put in thoughts and efforts to solve the particular problem for the customers.

So there's no point thinking that Dribbble shots are useless because it's not something you can just copy into your work and be great.

So that's my view on Dribbble. I love it, case closed!

July 10, 20211 Comment

To all my former design managers [Design Writing Challenge #5]

I've been really lucky to have worked with many incredibly talented designers. At each place I worked, the design manager there taught me something important and unique. Here's what I'd say to them if I were to meet them again. And I do hope I get to meet all of them again in the future!

To Angelique: Thank you for teaching me how to make wireframes and visual designs when I was just a "creative assistant" ordering pizzas.

To Richard: Thank you for letting me work with you as a sub-freelancer taking on different projects.

To Yutai: Thank you for giving me opportunities to explore my skills at work. And also the logo principal "tight not touch."

To Keara: Thank you for showing me top-notch mobile designs and pushing me to pay attention to details. Typos are unprofessional!

To Doug: Thank you for giving me the most fun projects in the startup and encouraging me to think about product directions.

To Rich: Thank you for pushing my visual design skills and encouraging me to learn from other people's work.

To Jeff: Thank you for introducing me to the latest design tools (at the time Sketch) that changed the whole design process.

To Dave: Thank you for being the caring leader of a design team facing clients from hell.

To Karin: Thank you for being a design director who I could always chat with about my career.

To Mike: Thank you for being a calm force during a chaotic project and someone whose work output can always be relied on.

To George: Thank you for showing me how to genuinely care for fellow designers and bring a team together.

Without these design leaders, I wouldn't be where I am today. And I hope to take all of what I've learned and share it with other designers now and in the future!

If you have a chance to say a thing or two to your former managers, what would they be?

July 5, 2021No Comments

A typical day in the life of a freelance UX designer [Design Writing Challenge #4]

Here's what I do on a typical day as a freelance UX designer!

Wake up and open my eyes (Check Slack)

Make tea, prepare breakfast (Check Slack)

Zoom meetings (Check Slack)

Morning Pilates

Breakfast (Check Slack)

Design Work (Check Slack)

Head into co-working space

Lunch (Check Slack)

Design Work (Check Slack)

Dinner (Check Slack)

After dinner walk with puppy and husband, or other fun activities (Check Slack)

Design Work (Check Slack)

Relaxation Time (Check Slack)

Bed Time! (Not check Slack thank Gawd!!)

July 4, 2021No Comments

Thinking With Type – an Essential Book on Typography [Design Writing Challenge #3]

One of my favorite books on design is Thinking with type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students. This book helped me a lot when I was a junior designer and I'm still using many of the principles I've learned to this day.

It's an easy way to start learning about typography

Typography can be a daunting subject! I remember as a junior designer I was deathly afraid of being found out that I didn't know as much about typography as I should have. This book taught me the basics of typography in a friendly and visual way that helped me learn without fear.

It tells a visual story of typography

Many nuances of typography come from how certain type was created and used before the age of computers. This book outlines the history in a visual way that makes it really easy to understand why certain types are used in certain ways and why they evoke certain emotions.

It outlines principles that are practical

Aside from all the histories and fun facts, this book outlines key principles of typography that can be immediately put to use whether you're designing for print or digital products. From the grid, usage of drop cap to avoiding the lone word, I was able to put these principles to use the next day I went to work. And I sounded a lot smarter (I think)!

Among all the design books that I've owned, this book is the first one I'd recommend to a fellow designer. Is there a design book that's your all-time favorite?

July 4, 2021No Comments

Self Review – The Key to Improve as a Designer [Design Writing Challenge #2]

Doing a self-review is an important part of my design process. A day after doing a design I like to give it a second look before it goes out the door. 

Here’s what I do:

1. Review designs on appropriate devices

Your user won’t be using your design in Figma so review your designs on actual devices. For mobile designs, I use Figma Mirror to make sure that my design looks good. For desktop, I use Figma’s presentation mode to simulate clicking through a web page. For print, I use my crappy printer to print a version that I can feel in my hands.

2. "The Next Morning" self reivew

In my process, I put down a design at the end of the day and review it again the next morning. Usually, after a night's sleep my brain is smarter? 😂😂😂 In my review, I see how I respond to my own design. As I look am I saying to myself "Oh wow, that's pretty good" or "Man, who the hell did this shit!?" I often spot mistakes that I overlooked the day before.

3. Design presentation dry run

If I’m preparing for a design presentation I like to do a dry run in my head — as if I’m clicking through the prototype in front of an audience. I start by saying,

"Today we're looking at the xyz feature for our customers..." Oops, I put the wrong slide here, gotta edit this!

"After the user clicks here, they'll be able to see this popup..." Oops, popup not showing, gotta go back and see if the prototype link is connected correctly!

Self-reviewing helps me improve my designs and spot mistakes before they go out to coworkers or clients. Do you do self-reviews for your work? What is your process like?

July 2, 2021No Comments

Five Ways to Win My Heart in Design [Design Writing Challenge #1]

When a design wins my heart, it's usually because it has done well in the following principles:

1. Consistent spacing

The spacing in a design is like backup orchestra for a concert. No matter how beautifully the main element is designed, if there's no adequate breathing space and consistent spacing surrounding the whole piece, the design would seem haphazard and unprofessional. It's as if the backup orchestra is going off on its own tune during a performance. Imagine how confusing (and perhaps amusing) that would be!

2. Legible typography

The study of typography and its history, pairing, and emotional impact is deep. But one of the most important aspects of typography, in my opinion, is that it needs to be legible on the communication device that it is used on. A headline or a paragraph can look romantic, modern, or futuristic. But if it's not legible, it loses most of its power because the meaning is not communicated across.

3. Visual Focus

In a design, there should be one element that grabs my attention within the first glance. It can be typography, illustration, a photo or a button. Without a clear visual focus, the design is confusing and quickly loses my interest. The human brain tends to seek out patterns and meaning. When they are not readily obvious (like life!) it can be very frustrating!

4. Emotional Impact

I love it when I can feel a clear sense of emotion from a design. Perhaps it's a sense of luxury, light-heartedness, sadness, or even terror. Emotion influences brand perception, and plays a huge role in information processing and decision-making. I feel that the emotional impact should be considered an important heuristic of whether a design is successful.

5. Clear call to action

As a form of communication, there are usually actions associated with the information that is conveyed via a design. Knowing the available actions is the first step for interaction. It also helps direct users and provides a sense of certainty.

There are many other ways to win my heart in design, but the above five are the ones that I find the most important. Do they overlap with yours? What are some ways that a design can grab your heart?

About the Design Writing Challenge

Let's face it, I suck at writing!

It takes me a long time to write anything, and it's hard for me to get my meaning across a lot of times! It's especially hard for me to write design case studies, it simply kills me!

I feel like I either sound like a teenager rambling, or some boring industry professional - still rambling. I'd really like to write with ease, clarity and personality.

The only way to get better at writing is to write

I believe the only way to get better at design is to design, therefore it must be true for writing as well. I downloaded an image of 30 writing prompts from the internet and adapted all of the prompts for design.

I look forward to sharing all these design writings with you in the next 30 days!

February 3, 2020No Comments


There's one song called "Team" by Iggy Azalea which I really like. The main lyrics go like this,

"Baby I got me, baby I got me, and that's all I need. Playing on my team, is someone like me."

A few years ago I really identified with these lyrics, thinking that no one can get those designs delivered like me. Even when I was working with a team of amazing designers, I always thought that I could do it all by myself.

Then I moved to Taiwan and started working on my own business ideas by myself. I thought I could do it all alone.

And you guessed it, I couldn't. I knew too little. And I had only 16 waking hours to work.

That was when I started to appreciate people who can write great copy, people who can write a detailed requirement doc, people who can cold email, knock on doors and pitch a new partnership opportunity.

I also started to truly appreciate other designers. I stop thinking about other designers as "better or worse", but "different" designers. They have different perspectives and experiences than me, and what they design would be different from mine.

And that's a great thing to see, think about and learn from.

I'm so grateful to have the chance to work with some fantastic teams with my clients now. I'm also thankful to have the support from my amazing business partner Rei, who is an unstoppable force that is making our dream real every day.

And when I think back, I've had such luck to work with some of the brightest and kindest people in the design field. They've shaped me to be the designer that I am today as well as helped me grow as a person.

So if I were to rewrite the lyrics to this song, it would be something like,

"Baby I got you, baby you got me, and that's all we need. Playing on our team, is someone like you and me."

That's a little longer than the original lyrics, so you'd have to rap a little faster. Now that wouldn't be a problem if we have Busta Rhymes on our team, would it?

Let me call him up now!

Photo credit: Randy Fath on Unsplash

February 2, 20201 Comment

Music to design to

I don't always design while listening to music. But on the days I do remember to pick up my 7-years-old Audio Technica headphones that has its outter skin flaking all over my hair, I usually start by playing Mozart's Piano Sonata K.302.

Listen to it. This is just the perfect "it's time to work!" music.

It starts off with a bang, like, "HELLO! Wake up!" And then, it goes into these tiny rolling notes as if a thousand bees are swarming out of their nest ready to collect the best nectar of their lives today.

That's right. This music makes me feel like I'm going to design the best input fields in all of internet today!

I used to listen to all sorts of music when I was designing. Kpop's BTS, Lord of the Rings soundtrack, Bollywood music, even Lil Wayne could be on my playlist. But in recent years, my playlists have been occupied by long-dead artists such as Bach, Mozart and Handel.

My guess is that, after my kickboxing accident late 2018 in which I got a mild concussion and subsequent anxiety attacks, my brain had chosen classical music to be her best companion while focusing.

Not only am I able to relax and focus to classical music, my brain also became more sensitive to detailed notes, progression and emotions. What can I say, kids, don't mess with your heads!

Don't get me wrong, I still very much enjoy a good Iggy Azalea and dancing to "I'm so fancy, you already know!" but I only get teared up with Rachmaninov's piano concerto No. 3 these days, you know!?

What's your go-to music while designing or focusing? It's totally okay if your brain feeds on Justin Bieber, I won't judge! I'm a Belieber myself. Do share!

July 2, 2019No Comments

Coming Soon: Shopping Experience Design Podcast!

I've been on a podcast kick lately and found so many wonderful and informing shows on fashion, retail and designs out there.

I especially enjoy interviews featuring designers who talk about their work and their design philosophy. Like Design Details. And as a solo designer now, I secretly imagine them as my coworkers haha!

And bam! Idea: Shopping Experience Design Podcast

And then this idea hit me. Why don't I start a podcast that focuses on two of my favorite topics: user experience design and ecommerce?

I'll have the perfect excuse to talk and learn from all these designers and product managers and technologists, and will be able to share their insights with other designers.


Topics we'll explore in this podcast series

  • How are the designers/PMs/Engineers responding to current online shopping trends
  • What they love about working on design and technology in ecommerce
  • What are some challenges they see in design and technology in the retail industry
  • How do they work with the rest of the teams to deliver outstanding shopping experience for customers
  • How do they manage the ever-changing landscape of design and technology in ecommerce

And so many more!

I think the pilot episode should be released by the end of July. (just giving myself some time to learn how to even produce a podcast =)) So stay tuned and be excited!