Tag Archives: designer

2287 Characters for 2287 Days of Zynga

Dear XXXX,

After more than six years at Zynga, I have decided that it is time for me to move on and pursue other interests. Please accept this message as my resignation from Zynga as a Senior Experience Designer. My last day of employment is Friday, December 18, 2015. I plan to spend a period of time after my departure to explore my options and career paths.

I want to thank you for the support you have given me already in the short time that we got to work together. I am also grateful for the guidance you have provided to the design team to continue to be motivated and inspired in doing our best work and delivering the best experience for our players.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Zynga for the incredible experience I have had for the past six years. During this time, I have learned an unbelievable amount, not just for my skill set as a designer, but also with product management, data analysis, game design, engineering frameworks, market research, business strategies, teamwork and collaboration, production processes, culture building, vision- and goal-setting, startup mentality, work-life balance, and so on. I am leaving this company with a lot more life and career experience than I could have ever imagined.

I am also thankful and amazed every day by the amount of talented people who work at this company. I have witnessed many times that when the right talents come together with a clear, common vision, greatness and success follow. I’m immensely honored to have worked with so many of these talented individuals in my journey through PetVille, Studio Platinum, ZDC, MSC, and the With Friends division. But I think I am most grateful, fortunate, and inspired to have the privilege to work for and with my direct managers throughout the years, all of whom have been unbelievably kind, approachable, smart, and enlightening, a combination of which I believe is rare.

For the remainder of my time here, I plan to continue my role and workload while preparing for a knowledge transfer with the design team. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to ensure the smoothest transition.

It has been an honor, a privilege, and a thrill to work at Zynga.

With endless gratitude,

Ivan W. Lam
Senior Experience Designer, Words With Friends

If Designers Were Worshipped Like Pop Stars

Here’s an idea that I’m interested in exploring (at least right now): how would an admirer of a designer express his or her obsession with the designer? How would a “fan site” look like? Would it be like MySpace, or would it be like the cheesy, over-designed fan sites you see for musicians and actors? Would there be links like “gallery,” and “media,” and “tour”?

If I were to have a fan site for a designer I really like, the designer would have to have Stefan Sagmeister, no doubt. (A semi-distant second would be Josef Müller-Brockmann.) The site would be well-designed, of course, and it would reflect Sagmeister’s style, though I’m not sure what it is exactly. I would imagine, though, that it would involve a lot more organic forms: handwriting and fruits come to mind.

The typography must be unique, whether it’s digital or handwritten. As is everything else. It would probably be about the experience of the site that reminds viewers of Sagmeister; it couldn’t be a boring grid of text in Verdana or Georgia and straight photography that doesn’t evoke any personal connections.

I haven’t thought much about this (I just thought of the idea less than an hour ago), but I’m interested in other people’s ideas for “designer fan sites.” It would be even cooler if someone actually built it!


Ugly and High Graphic Design

A few weeks ago, I read a post on Design Observer by Michael Bierut on “how to be ugly.” In it he used the magazine 032c’s recent design to talk about the aesthetics of intentional ugly design by a good designer. He cites sources that more or less declare that ugly is back and it sounded like we’re re-entering a Dark Age of some sort in design aesthetics.

That got me thinking: is there an “upper-class” of graphic design, where only the well-known graphic designers like Bierut and Paula Scher can appreciate and allow, and anything else is just crap? And that the “lower” designers and the general public can’t understand why it’s good except that it’s designed by famous designers?

Analogy to Clothes and Food

I mean, I feel that graphic designers already have this reputation for being an arrogant class that cannot stand the “regular” people using Photoshop filters or outlined type or motion tweens and 0% alphas, so it’s kind of unfortunate to think that within this “class” there’s another hierarchy of judgment that split us up even more. I feel that this exists because the other mainstream arts have this, like fashion and cuisine, for examples. Sometimes I don’t understand some of the wacky colors and materials that models only wear in shows but not on the street, or why there’s a dinky yet expensive piece of steak on a large white plate that certainly won’t get me full. When I see this stuff, I keep telling myself that it’s for the sake of experiment and medium exploration, which I totally support. So in that case, should graphic design be like that too?

But unlike fashion or cuisine, graphic design is so democratic. Yes, even though not everyone can use Photoshop to the best of its abilities, an amateur can still design a crappy flyer and get paid for it. But not everyone can design and mass produce an outfit that people would want to wear outside, nor can he or she cook a multi-course meal and serve to customers without fearing that they might throw up or get food poisoning. With graphic design, everyone can participate, and very rarely will a poorly designed book jacket and poster directly harm the customers. While there is still a certain level of aesthetic rules that good design follows and designers evaluate against, like typography, color harmony, structure, etc., there really isn’t a “high graphic design” class that is supposed to define the trends for all of graphic design for Spring 2008 or whatever. That’s not what graphic design is about.

Ugly Design

“High graphic design” talk aside, I can see what Bierut’s talking about with ugly coming back. As I was a couple of paragraphs into his post, the word ugly began to remind me of the I Knows Me Some Ugly MySpace Showdown competition that Ze Frank hosted on “The Show” in the summer of 2006. The Internet has further spread this democracy that is graphic design onto the public, resulting in a lot more amateur, straight-up ugly design (even in the eyes of non-designers) in the world. (I recently learned that these wonderfully ugly MySpace sites had paid help from entrepreneurs taking advantage of this new medium.)

This Whole Thing with Wolff Olins

To be honest, I was not a fan of the 2012 Olympics logo when it first unveiled. I’m still not a fan now, but at least I understand where Wolff Olins was coming from, to a certain extent. I keep telling myself that this is going to get better as we see more of the supporting branding materials; everything will fall into place when 2011, 2012 come around. We just have to wait and see. Because if this still looks like crap when the time comes, I will probably lose hope on all that is good and pure about humanity, because that’s what the Olympics means to me.

Stretched Type

Based on Wolff Olins’s reasoning behind the 2012 Olympics logo, I can tell that he wanted something really different from the past Olympics logos (which I find good enough for the context of the host city/nation, but whatever) where people are encourage to participate in the conversation, which goes with the current trend of community interaction, especially on the web (or Web 2.0). Despite the “wacky” Wacom identity and the fat NYC logo (which I actually think is not that bad considering the branding possibilities that Olins had pointed out), I want to quietly inform you all that I am a semi-closeted Wolff Olins fan (Armin Vit shares my view, I think, via that “NYC logo” link). “Semi” because I don’t know where exactly he’s going with this, but I can see the potential for something great.

All in all, I think that ugly is inevitable, but it’s not necessary a bad thing. I believe that like almost everything, the world needs balance, and without the ugly, there’s no beautiful. And without the ugly, there’s no need for designers decorators.


Winchester Mystery House

It has taken me pretty much a week to finally catch up with my life after my relatives visited the States (two of whom for the first time) for three weeks. During that time, I was only able to churn out three entries, which pathetically was also the total for the month of November. That, however, doesn’t mean I didn’t think about design for the entire time. In fact, I had collected a good number of entry ideas that I will probably shoot out in a relatively short about of time.

The bedroom Sarah Winchester died in.

In the mad dash of visiting one or two local destinations of interest every single day to make great use of my relatives’ time here, the family and I went to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose more than two weeks ago under the impression that it was a haunted house of some sort due to a loss in translation.

Nonetheless, the house was still eerie as it reminded me of a time that only existed in sepia tone. The mansion was designed by a wealthy widow named Sarah Winchester for more than three decades until her death.

Wallpaper and underlying structure of horizontal wood strips

Between the Arts & Crafts decoration and the Asian-inspired aesthetics that I was able to recognize from my design history classes during undergrad, the most interesting thing about the house was that Winchester was very picky and selective, almost indecisive, about her designs. She would have people tear down a part of the house because she changed her mind about how a particular part of the room should function or look, and start over, which is why it took forever to build the house, leaving it unfinished as a result of her death.

Asian-inspired furniture

She was designing the house and living in it along with a crew of servants for whom she would frequently have to provide a new map to the house as her designs changed. As a side note about the servants, even though she paid her servants well, she had the power to fire and hire them on a daily basis, so if a new servant made some comment about the weird design of the house, he or she wouldn’t be working there the next day.

Walking on the tour route and thinking about what the tour guide said about Winchester’s perfectionist approach, I was reminded of my obsession with pure perfection in high school. Since then, I had realized that while quality is certainly important, perfection is not obtainable, but excellence is. I still pay attention to detail, probably still more than most designers I’ve met, but I also consider the usual design constraints, primarily time and budget, and sometimes resources. I wouldn’t ask the printers to throw away 1,000 copies of some book I designed just because one paragraph didn’t indent, not that the printers would do it anyway (without me paying them a lot more to do a rush order).

Web-like window.

The tour guide’s narration about Miss Winchester as a designer reminded me of, again from the design history classes, architects in the early 1900s who designed every single unit of the house, requesting the owner to wear a particular outfit for being in the living room, and another one for the dining room, and then another one just to answer the door. In today’s world of audience participation and interactivity, especially on the web, designers have less and less control over how their designs are viewed and used.

China setting

This somewhat creates a similar but different challenge from the architects of the past, where those architects had to design every single thing, including the lamps and colored glass windows and silverware to match the design of the house, whereas now designers have to put just as much effort to accommodate for the most common, if not all, of the possible ways that the audience will experience the designs.

Cascading style sheets (CSS) come to mind. In an experiment to expand my CSS knowledge, I recently created a temporary web portfolio, TP107, to test how my portfolio would look on mobile devices, in printed form, and with no styles at all. Due to time constraints, I was not able to write an aural style sheet as well for the vision-impaired; a quick research revealed that there is a good amount of page element properties consideration for aural style sheets. Still, I would like to get into that in a future project.

Before I sidetrack any more, I’m going to wrap up this entry and conclude that Sarah Winchester was one crazy lady, figuratively speaking.