Khoi Vinh

Khoi Vinh

Principal Designer at Adobe, blogger at Subtraction.com, former design director at NYTimes.com

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 21, 2015

Discussion

Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
I'm Principal Designer at Adobe, co-founder of Kidpost.net, Design Chair at Wildcard, and blogger at Subtraction.com. Ask me about design, creativity software, tablet software and movies.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Khoi - are you batman?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@rrhoover Would Batman answer that?
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@khoi batman would say that
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@khoi Who is your biggest influence in the design world?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@russfrushtick My biggest influence is probably Massimo Vignelli. Or, I should say that I've stolen more from him than any other designer over the course of my career!
Anuraj
Anuraj@anurajkr · UX'er for startups
@khoi What is your favorite book?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@anurajkr I have a boring answer: “The Great Gatsby.” I wish I had a more exciting or eclectic book to offer you, but it's far and away the best thing I've ever read. And I've read it over a dozen times. It's endlessly rewarding.
Brian Lin
Brian Lin@brianisme · UX Lead @ League Inc
@khoi Could you speak a little about how Adobe goes about validating design decisions when creating a new tool like Comet?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@brianisme Lots of customer interviews and user research. Comet, in particular, has been shown in private to lots of people. Early next year we'll release a public beta that will then further inform design and development. But I think what a lot of people miss about product design and development is that validation can sometimes take years, that validation sometimes takes the form of dedicated, persistent iteration. That's one thing Adobe does really well; they keep coming back to continually tweak their solutions. You see that a lot on the many amazing apps that Adobe has developed for mobile—we're still very early in bringing creative workflows to phones and tablets, but Adobe has been really dogged in trying to progressively knock down the barriers to making that a reality. You see that in continued software innovation on Adobe's part, but also in the way the company has built meaningful dialogues with Apple, Google and Microsoft to help influence the direction of these OSes and devices.
Brian Lin
Brian Lin@brianisme · UX Lead @ League Inc
@khoi Any specific examples on user research you've personally been a part of at Adobe? Curious about how the team qualifies certain flows in their tools and how that's documented.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Do you have any habits/routines to help get you in a "creative mindset" or flow state?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@katesegrin That's a great question. I always like to put headphones on to really concentrate. I usually start by clearing out as many simple to do tasks as I can (I use Todoist—amazing product) so that I can feel good about having swept the floor before I do something more creatively satisfying, if you know what I mean.
the doer
the doer@thedoerdoes · frontend developer, UX designer
If you were to start your way in design as if from scratch now, which way would you go? Who were your design mentors, what rules did you follow in your way that made you stand where you are now?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@thedoerdoes If I were to start my design career from scratch today I would learn how to code at a much more advanced level than I'm capable of now—which wouldn't be hard, to be honest! But I'm not sure I would want to end up anywhere other than where I am today; I feel quite lucky to have been able to do what I've been able to do, and while I might wish for more time to learn or indulge in this or that, I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out so far. As for my design mentors, the one that I look up to the most is probably Steven Heller, a designer, writer, educator and historian. He's incredibly smart and well-rounded and a big hero of mine. I got to know him at The New York Times and we've stayed in touch, and I always get inspired after we catch up for lunch once or twice a year.
Sahil Kathawala
Sahil Kathawala@sahilkathawala · editorial at Wildcard
@khoi @thedoerdoes what facet of coding? front-end, user-facing code, or the whole gamut?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@sahilkathawala @thedoerdoes Probably not the whole gamut, but starting with front-end, and then going as far into the stack as I could.
Wade Fasano
Wade Fasano@doubleyew · Graphic Designer
When you get stuck, or are in a creative rut, where do you draw inspiration from? Any specific sites or people that are your go-to?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@doubleyew I usually turn to books. Lella and Massimo Vignelli have published a few monographs that are invaluable to me. I also like to look at design for print—the Society of Publication Designers has a ton of hardbound design annuals that are full of brilliant ideas even for product designers. Also, like I mentioned above, going for a walk or just taking a break from a problem is a huge help.
Sean Green
Sean Green@disruptart · Founder, ARTERNAL
@khoi thanks for participating in this. Great to e-meet you. I'm the founder of ARTLOCAL CRM (for art galleries) and I'm bringing on 2-3 designers from General Assembly to design our UX. What are your suggestions for the 3 week period that we have them for to get the most out of them and their design deliverables (ie: our re-envisioned UX/UI for web and mobile)? We have them full-time at 40 hours per week per student beginning Monday.
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@disruptart That sounds like a great opportunity but it could also be a big mess. I recommend that you have an advisor who has experience with the kind of problem you're trying to get these GA students to solve for you to help you with the overall process. Setting the right expectations for all sides at each juncture of the project will be critical, and only someone who has been through it before will know where and when to do that.
lugiamx
lugiamx@lugiamx
Hi Khoi, what do you think about web and app front-end development these days, isn't it a downgrade? I really missed the Flash era when I could directly create graphical objects and manipulate them later by code snippet. Nowadays development is code-compile-see-results-code again, taking away all the fun and the hand-on creative iterations process.
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@lugiamx You're right, we have a long way to go before front-end tools can be considered to be truly robust. But I think that's what's exciting about this field; our craft doesn't sit still, it's constantly evolving, so the tools are constantly evolving too, trying to keep up. The downside to that different approaches to presentation layer implementation come and go. In some ways I miss the visual manipulation of Flash too. But I'm confident that something like that will return again before too long.
lugiamx
lugiamx@lugiamx
@khoi @lugiamx Totally agree with you that all crafts and needs are constantly evolving. I was half expecting you to say Adobe would invest on leading front-end development again. I really hope so actually, given Adobe did make so many tools that designers and developers love.
Arthur Bodolec
Arthur Bodolec@abrodo · Designer, Co-founder @feedly
Hi Khoi! I would be really curious to hear how design is structured at Adobe and how design leadership roles are distributed and what are their specific roles.
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@abrodo I'm still learning about this! I work with the mobile team, and there are designers specifically focused on building new mobile apps and tools on top of Creative Cloud. But they also collaborate with other designers too, who are organized into a centralized experience design team, focused on different product lines. That's probably the best I can do at the moment in describing how design is structured but one thing I've found is that the structure isn't religious at Adobe. There's lots of open collaboration and really talented people motivated to create world class creativity tools who are willing to do what it takes to make them a reality. I think that's really inspiring.
Arthur Bodolec
Arthur Bodolec@abrodo · Designer, Co-founder @feedly
@khoi @abrodo Really cool. Organizing design in such a big companies is always a challenge. It's interesting to see how companies handle the balance between process/structure and letting things be a little organic. In this context, for you, as Principal designer, what is your role and how do you measure success?
Arthur Bodolec
Arthur Bodolec@abrodo · Designer, Co-founder @feedly
@abrodo And how is that different form your previous role at NYT?
Suresh Kalass
Suresh Kalass@sur04sep · Co-founder @Bushlark
@khoi Should design/UX be culture/country/geography specific? Apart from minor variations i do not see much differences in the popular solutions/servies.
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@sur04sep That's a fantastic question. I'm as guilty of everyone else I know in that I spend most of my time in a US-centric bubble. My answer to your question is yes, UX design should respect regional characteristics, but there's always a tradeoff between local and universal ideas when you're creating digital products. By nature, they're rarely truly geography bound; that's a native attribute that should be accepted and accounted for in any design. But products that can find a scalable way to reflect local specifics are going to have a leg up over those that don't and that will become increasingly true moving further into this century.
Suresh Kalass
Suresh Kalass@sur04sep · Co-founder @Bushlark
@khoi @sur04sep True. The only instance I have seen, that too is very minimal, is different facebook UI based on language setting(en_us or en_uk). Though they mainly used it for controlled rollouts. We too are building a global local product so thinking along these lines :). Thanks for your answer
Christian Croft
Christian Croft@xncroft · Chief Product Officer, uSell
@khoi Can you talk a bit about conducting user research on designers? I'm curious to learn whether creating and validating tools for designers using design research may be different or the same.
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@xncroft A lot of times, as designers, we are told that we are little more than a noisy niche and that we're not "normal" users. There's some truth to that, but at the same time it's such a great feeling to know that there is a critical mass of us out there—a legitiate, multi-billion dollar market. That's what I enjoy about working on tools for this market; designers' problems are the same problems that I've been thinking about for more than two decades, so it feels so comfortable and satisfying to be able to focus on them every day. Actually I know your question was specifically about conducting user research. Well in that respect it's not much different except to focus on designers because as a designer myself, it's a lot easier to find other designers and to interpret their feedback and behaviors. There's a danger of course in mistaking my biases as a designer for theirs, of course, but we try to be really disciplined about what we hear from our customers at Adobe.
Antoine Plu
Antoine Plu@antoineplu · Freelance Designer
Another point I'd like to ear from you is, how do you manage all knowledge you can find? Do you do some kind of curation? How do you keep these informations to connect the dots later?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@antoineplu I really don't know! I think I just stuff it all in there—my brain—and hope I can find it again one day. I mean, I do use a few disconnected databases—Delicous (still) for one, and Evernote as well. But I don't have a comprehensive knowledge index, if that's what you mean!
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@khoi When publishing new posts on Subtraction, what platforms do you find most successful with regards to content marketing? Also what tools are your favourite that allow you to carry out your duties day to day?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@harrystebbings Well first I would say that I don't think of it as content marketing—there's barely enough time each day for me to write each post let alone have a coherent plan for marketing it. I'm lucky enough to have a substantial Twitter following so I push out word via that channel, mostly. I rely a lot on Buffer to do that; I try to tweet about each post once right after it's published and again a day or two later. Buffer makes that really easy.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Hi Khoi! Such an honor to have you here. What are some of the biggest design learnings from your time at NYT that you applied to your work at Wildcard, given that they are both news-driven sites/apps?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@melissajoykong Great question! I learned that people care most about the core content, and that all the "extras"—back story, outtakes, commentary, etc.—are secondary to that. That's not to say that that value add content is not worthwhile; it just comes in a distant second after making sure that the principal content is easy to read, accessible, understandable. I also learned that the news business is very, very tough!
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
What lessons have you learned as a designer that have shaped your thinking about the human condition? Put another way, what can design teach us about life?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@melissajoykong Someone much smarter than me said that the most important asset that you can have when you're designing things that you want real people to use is *empathy*. I agree with that. I think having empathy is a great thing—if we had more people who had empathetic approaches to living their lives, that would be a big leap forward.
Michael D
Michael D@twelvedesign · UX Designer
@khoi @melissajoykong could you please share some tips to develop empathy?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@twelvedesign @melissajoykong Spending time with real users, observing them working on the tasks that you're designing for, getting to know what motivates them and what frustrates them. Also, reading extensively about the context and problem you're trying to solve so that you can understand it from as many angles as you can. Basically: be inquisitive and open to learning what people want and need.
Bharat Bhushan
Bharat Bhushan@vishkubhushan · CEO , Vishku Corporation (P) Ltd.
@khoi What are your future coming projects ?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@vishkubhushan I can't talk about them yet! I try to keep these close to vest because I'm never sure when a project will actually come to fruition or not, and I guess I'm shy about announcing stuff that I might never finish. However, I have plenty of stuff going on right now! There's http://kidpost.net which I built with some friends—it's an awesome, easy way to share photos, and we're about to add some cool new features to it. I've also got a hardcover version of my book "How They Got There: Interviews With Digital Designers About Their Careers" that's available for pre-order now at http://howtheygotthere.com. Hopefully that's enough?
Bharat Bhushan
Bharat Bhushan@vishkubhushan · CEO , Vishku Corporation (P) Ltd.
@khoi @vishkubhushan Thank you Khoi
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@vishkubhushan You're welcome!
David Shen
David Shen@shendavidesign · UX Designer
Coming from the graphic design background what's the most challenge you have had to lead the design team that working on the project is highly technical? and how you overcome?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@shendavidesign The biggest challenge to designers and engineers working together is not really unique to those particular groups—it's learning how to work with people who have a different vocabulary and approach to doing their work than you do. So fundamentally the answer to that is to understand one another better as *people*. Part of that is pedagogical; finding ways to teach engineers about design and for designers to learn about engineering. But a big part is also about building personal bonds with one another and being able to relate on a human level. Without the latter, it doesn't matter how much you understand coding.
the doer
the doer@thedoerdoes · frontend developer, UX designer
Why would it be awesome to use project Comet? Why this prototyping tool? For what would it be best in comparison to the current market?
Khoi Vinh
Khoi Vinh@khoi · Subtraction.com
@thedoerdoes Project Comet is exciting because it's Adobe's first truly purpose-built UX/UI design and prototyping software. That means that for the first time Adobe is bringing its world class understanding of the creative process and the tools that support that process to help designers build modern app experiences. It's also exciting because Adobe is breaking with tradition and writing Comet natively to each platform—the early builds truly look and feel and behave like an OS X app, and soon when it's on Windows, it will look and feel and behave like a true Windows app. Basically, my answer is that this is the app many if us have always wanted Adobe to build—including me!