Computer, do my design work.

This is a piece I first wrote for Automattic’s Design Voice blog about the future of design and marketing:

Imagine you step into your car for your morning commute, then the car starts driving itself. You realize you need to make a stop at the cell phone store, so you tell your car. You walk into the store where you’re greeted by a shiny humanoid who offers you the latest model of its product. This is NOT the future, it’s the present.

We live in the age of self-driving cars, humanoid robots that replace human sales associates in Japan, websites that design themselves, and even an AI creative director that makes come up with sticky commercial ideas. This is what the “future” supposed to be like, so…what is the future of this future?

As a marketing designer at Automattic, I think about the future quite a bit. It’s part of my job to think about how we can adapt to the ever-changing needs of our customers while communicating to them the value of our brand and products. Culture and trends evolve at the speed of light and we need to keep up.

We are challenged by our Head of Computational Design and Inclusion, John Maeda, to solve this problem with computational design thinking. In order to create an expansive amount of fresh creative work in a timely manner, we need the help of computation. Automattic is a company that is known for its engineering, how can we leverage this engineering thinking and culture in our design discipline? Here are a few ways I think we can:

Think like engineers

One way we can do it is by treating design more like engineering. Prototype our work with fast rough ideas, then iterate on it with real world user testing and continual refinements of the design. We can use tools like Abstract for Sketch to allow for an agile versioning and reviewing process. Love an idea you see? Fork it and make it your own. There’s no such thing as a perfect design anymore in this time of Snapchat and new media. People want things that are personal and new. We need to learn from our engineering counterparts to combat this.

Software as tools for creation

Another way is to literally rely on our machines to create our designs. We have access to an immense amount of data internally and externally. User trends, product usage, trending hashtags, etc. Let’s use that data to create software that lets us scale our designs. With generative programming languages like Processing, OpenFrameworks, and even JavaScript, we can create numerous designs that are new and fresh based on different inputs and variables.

Software as tools for efficiency

We create software to help us be more efficient. Instead of doing the same arduous task multiple times, we can automate these tasks with our computers. We are building systems that helps us compute and automate repetitive tasks like resizing a design in multiple sizes and mediums for advertising, or localizing copywriting in various languages for our global customers. The next level is to analyze our data inputs, while making creative autonomously for our various customers with different interests, geographies, and needs. My philosophy is always to work smarter, not harder. Using computational power frees us time to focus on things that machines can’t do — like marketing and brand strategies.

I 💙 the future

I look forward to a future when we can talk to our computer and say, “Create my next comprehensive multi-channel marketing campaign for next spring.” But before that, I am enjoying this near future which we can learn from our engineering counterparts and leverage the power of computational thinking to help us create work that keeps up with the market trends.

Featured image by Automattic’s Mark Uraine, generated using Processing.

Lessons from Hong Kong

A piece I wrote based on my experience living in my hometown, Hong Kong, for a month after being away in America for years.

AUTOMATTIC DESIGN (VOICE RIP)

I grew up in Hong Kong and have since moved to America during my last year of high school. After spending half of my life in America, I’ve realized it has made me very US-centric when it comes to designing for our customers.

But after spending a month in Hong Kong, where I grew up, it has reminded me to always think about our customers at a global level especially when our product serves customers from many countries other than the U.S..

Below are a few main lessons and insights that I learned from my recent trip:

Websites are not a standard

When I search for businesses in Hong Kong, I find that most places don’t have a website. They rely heavily on local listing sites like OpenRice (Yelp equivalent) and Google Map listings. They also don’t have the most updated or correct information. I see this as a HUGE…

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What’s Your Freedom?

I wrote about how freedom is embedded within Automattic, where I work. Would love you to share what freedom is to you.

AUTOMATTIC DESIGN (VOICE RIP)

“We don’t make software for free, we make it for freedom.”

The idea of freedom rings true to Automattic’s roots. Our CEO, Matt Mullenweg, blogged about the four software freedoms back in 2014. In fact, this concept of freedom is so important you’ve probably spotted it on our homepage.

We’ve been exploring how the concept of freedom can connect our product with customers through marketing. So you can say, I have freedom on my mind!

In the process of researching the concept, we have found freedom as an universal idea that has transpired in many forms of expressions – books, poems, and songs:

Freedom by George Michael:

Redemption Song (Songs for Freedom) by Bob Marley:

Freedom by Pharrell Williams:

This is all very relevant to Automattic’s mission of democratizing publishing. Everyone is free to communicate and express themselves using our software. But as we evolve, what other…

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Creative Campaign for Detroit Small Businesses

Wrote a piece on my experience working on the WordPress.com Detroit small businesses campaign. Enjoy!

AUTOMATTIC DESIGN (VOICE RIP)

WordPress.com has recently launched our very first TV commercials – telling the stories of small businesses in Detroit. The spots document our journey during the Detroit Hackathon we’ve held with Rebrand Cities to partner with local small businesses to work on their websites. It was an invaluable opportunity for the Automattic team to learn about their daily challenges and successes.

We had the opportunity to collaborate with our filmmaking partners, Culture of Creativity (C8), and produce a series of videos for broadcast and digital mediums. You can read more about them in our recent interview on design.blog.

Watch Kay’s story (:30)

With a condensed timeline, an all remote team and an external partner, communication was key. Both parties kept in close contact via our P2-themed blog, and the occasional Zoom calls, which made the whole creative development process transparent and easily searchable. It also allowed our global team…

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First time in London

I had the special opportunity to visit London for the first time for an Automattic European designer meetup. I had such a great time meeting most of them in person for the very first time. It was three full days of intense workshop sessions after another but it was well worth it.

Much appreciation to John Maeda + A8C crew for the great time.

I also had the chance to walk around London a bit to experience the city. The Tate Modern was a highlight for me. It’s hard to believe a museum of this scale and quality would run a freemium model. (Obviously you have to pay for the special exhibitions.)

I must go back to London with the family soon!