Last year I gave a short talk about designing for both physicians and patients at a Design + Healthcare event hosted by John Maeda and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. Prior to this, most of my time as a designer working in the healthcare industry was spent at Spruce Health, where I designed a mobile application that enabled patients to be treated remotely by a dermatologist. Shortly after that talk, Spruce shifted the direction as a company and turned the technology behind the dermatology clinic into a platform any physician could use in their practice. Very quickly, I went from designing an experience focused on patients to one that was focused on physicians. As a result, I was forced to rethink how I approach problems through design and redefine what it means to drive change.
I grew up drawing and painting (traditional artist) and knew I wanted to be able to do that for the rest of my life. I was good. I still am, I think. When I was 9 years old my mother gave me an art school test booklet she saw on TV. It had a turtle or pirate character and a couple other exercises to test your ability.
When discussing technologies to support learning and education, my mentor Seymour Papert (who, sadly, passed away last month) often emphasized the importance of “low floors” and “high ceilings.” For a technology to be effective, he said, it should provide easy ways for novices to get started (low floor) but also ways for them to work on increasingly sophisticated projects over time (high ceiling). With his Logo programming language, for example, kids could start by drawing simple squares and triangles, but gradually create more complex geometric patterns over time.
My experience being Filipino American Designer right now (and this literally happened to me last night):
New Person: “So, where are you from?” Me: “I’m from Tennessee.” New Person: “Oh, really? Huh… (awkward pause) but…” Me: “But, yes I was born and raised here, so I’m American, but, yeah, my parents are from the Philippines. They came to be the doctors of a rural town, and had me there.” New Person: “Oh, the Philippines! I was wondering…”
“Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it in, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life’s bittersweet route.”
— Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
When I think of designing for people of color, my thoughts immediately go back to my college years studying architecture in St. Louis and to a project that is known as one of the greatest failures known in modern architecture.
Coworking is a growing movement of spaces and people, usually independent contractors, who have realized that working together makes for happier, more productive work lives, so they’re making it happen without the hierarchy. The spaces vary, but they’re generally membership-based and value-driven. People who belong tend to believe in collaboration, openness, accessibility, and sustainability. There are thousands of coworking spaces listed in the coworking Space Directory (a wiki collectively owned and updated). More than 450 of them participate in what they call a coworking visa program, where you can belong to a space in Iowa, for example, but spend a few days working at the one in Italy.
In a world fascinated by the unicorn designer that is a coding savant, I want to call on designers to pay closer attention to something else: words.
The case for writing in design has been made by people far more articulate than myself, a few of whom I highlighted in the Design in Tech Report released at SXSW. It’s a perspective I think is worthy of continual discussion and one I don’t often see being advocated for by designers themselves, so I’d like to raise a few more points.