Meet the Designer: Brandon Wu
Like many of today’s enterprising web folk, Brandon Wu is a modern-day multi-hyphenate. After years doing marketing and user feedback management at Sony and EA, Wu went his own way and started a company to come up with game ideas—first independently, and later for clients. Last year, he launched The Curious Collective to develop Doko, a micro-blogging platform for mobile devices. As director, he’s responsible for all aspects of the product; we caught up with him to chat efficient workflows, getting started in UX and UI design, and why deep house music is key to productivity.
What drew you to UX/UI design, and how did you get your start?
To me, UX/UI design is a field where art meets tech meets humanity. Good design allows for interactions that are gratifying, aesthetically pleasing, all while accomplishing a goal: be it hailing a cab, completing a quest, or ordering pizza. It brings technology to people, and encompasses things that I have always been interested in – psychology, design, and technology. I got involved in designing for games and web apps while at EA and Sony. But it wasn’t until I left to start a game company in 2010 when I really picked up UI/UX design; with a small team, I had to wear multiple hats, and it’s one thing I wanted to make sure I have a good grasp of in our products.
How does Adobe Creative Cloud fit into your creative process?
It’s actually evolved quite a bit! When I learned about Adobe XD, I tried it out on my own before introducing it to the rest of the team; it didn’t take long to realize it could completely streamline our (totally inefficient) workflows; even for—or maybe especially for—the people on our team who aren’t designers. It’s so easy to pick up. We used to send powerpoint files back and forth that explained what they wanted to do; now we can all mock-up things quickly and use XD for communicating ideas internally.
We’re spread out—I’m in Cambridge, and we have developers in Barcelona, Taipei, Denmark—and it’s easy to copy and paste an XD link into Slack that we can comment on and work from.
We still use Photoshop for marketing materials and Illustrator for icons (though we’ve experimented with using XD for those as well).
Let’s look at one of your projects. What was your process creating DOKO—a micro-blogging platform for mobile devices?
Social media today largely focuses on short-form content—the 140 characters of Twitter, or image-based layout of Instagram—or blogging, which can include thousand- (or more) word posts; and there’s nothing really in between. When we were doing research, we found that users wanted to be able to provide more context and content around what they’re sharing.
With Doko, we wanted to create an accessible, nicely designed platform—like a digital zine, with words and images—that doesn’t require the user to do any design work, or have any design skills. Building our editor has been the biggest challenge; it’s evolved into a mini—but powerful—content management system optimized for creating on mobile devices. For readers, we’re working on how to surface and recommend the best entries, based on tags, geo-tags, and meta-data.
What excites you most about the future of UX/UI design—both in terms of creating it, and engaging with it?
Because there are all these new trends—virtual reality, augmented reality, the Internet of things—there’s a need for fresh thinking on ways to to interact with all the new devices and technology. Take smartphones, for example; they started with this tech that let users manipulate and control things via touchscreen, which ushered in all these innovations that pushed the boundaries of that interface, and made the best of its capabilities. The important role—and one of the most interesting—for UX and UI designers is to make these advances accessible, too; they can really help show what’s possible.
What bit(s) of wisdom can you share with creative folks who are interested in becoming UX/UI designers?
Just get going with it! The tools are so good now—and there are so many resources and tutorials online—that you can spend a few hours learning and then actually begin designing. I’m a huge believer in an iterative process: doing something quickly, getting feedback, then changing your design based on that info and research. Once you can interact with your project you can suss out what works and what doesn’t, then go back and tweak until it’s right.
Whose UX/UI work do you look at and go: “WOW”?
I love the minimal design and subtle animations when the user interacts with the original Dots puzzle game. It’s incredibly satisfying when you connect the dots in the game and then they pop. The way it tells you how well you are doing with simple on-screen coloured lines and shapes is nicely done as well. The UX/UI for it is simple, delightful, and playful.
Best tunes for getting into a creative flow?
I find lyrics distracting, so Deep House, with its hints of jazz, hip-hop, and electronic dance music, and the (often) lack of climax, makes it ideal for me to get into a flow. Try anything by Pépé Bradock.
- Twitter: @coolhunting, @dwell, @we_heart, @wallpapermag
- Blog: 99u
- Podcast: Freakonomics, Revisionist History
- For design/industry news and updates: It’s Nice That
- Follow Brandon Wu on: Behance, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Hey designers: We’d love to feature you next! Share your prototypes on Behance for the chance to be featured in Adobe XD’s Meet the Designer series. Don’t forget to tag them with #MadeWithAdobeXD and select Adobe Experience Design under “Tools Used.”