Panda laying on a rock outside
Panda laying on a rock outside
Credit: Elena Loshina

Design, creativity, technology, etc.

This is the blog of Joanna Ngai. I frequently write about design, creativity, technology and share anything that I believe that might be of interest to others. You can always read the latest here.

If you’re feeling generous, buy me a coffee 🍵

Self-doubt and breaking bubbles

Everyone has a bubble.

This is your comfort zone.

People in bubbles
People in bubbles

It may be a ring of familiar desires, routine, habits and maybe an inner circle of people you feel particularly close to.

Bubbles feel nice.

They protect us from the scary unknown. Yet for all their good qualities, there is one big downside: their outer boundaries are based on fear.

Fear can be a practical signal like: ‘Your stove/house/pants are on fire’, but not all fear is valid. Over-reaction in response to imagined fears can limit you from reaching your full potential.

Clubhouse logo vs. Discord logo
Clubhouse logo vs. Discord logo

First impressions from a designer’s perspective

With all the attention to the social powerhouse Clubhouse and the group chat giant Discord, here’s a first impression on the two platforms and how they compare from a designer’s perspective.

Disclaimer: I use Discord significantly more than Clubhouse which will bias my review. Personally I see Clubhouse is more like the ocean whereas Discord is more like a lake in terms of my usage.

Both Clubhouse and Discord are audio-based social media platforms. Clubhouse centers around live-chat rooms, whereas Discord’s origins for gaming communities makes it well suited for smaller communities. Discord’s server structure allows for a shared ‘space’…

Credit: Sam Truong

Common challenges, crowdfunding your work, finding collaborators and earning your bread

Earning money (through art) and making art are two separate beasts.

As a designer/illustrator, I’m well aware of the tension between putting out work for free and earning a living. While open-sourcing your work can be a great thing, I believe creators deserve to be paid for their work (eating and having a roof over your head are also nice).

As trends point to a global democratization of content production (where everyone creates some type of “content” online), I am increasingly concerned that creators are not being treated as equal collaborators. …

Here’s what’s coming up ahead

COVID-19 has forced millions of workers to work remotely. For those that want the autonomy to continue working remotely, just setup this easy kit new workspace.

It’s a minor setup which includes cameras, microphones and one full body sensor, just start the stream on your new workspace and you’re good to go.

You might recall these fun summertime playthings, strolling around crowded parks (back when that was a thing). …

Credit: You X Ventures

Use this cheat sheet to decipher what your designers are really saying

This is a wireframe = Please don’t look so closely at it

We should deliver something lean = My hand is cramping

Let’s unpack this… = I can’t remember how this conversation started…

We should compromise = This works without redesigning everything

We should revamp the brand = This allows us to redesign everything!

Can we add breathing room? = How can one page have so many things on it

The new logo is not half bad = It’s clever and I wish I made it

When do you need it by? = Is this deadline real or arbitrary?


Barn owl in a field
Barn owl in a field
Credit: Andy Chilton

100+ ways to approach learning, communication and goals

I’m thankful to be surrounded by colleagues and friends much smarter than I am both at work and outside of work.

As with any advice, your milage may vary. Here’s things I’ve learned about learning, communication and goals:

  1. If it doesn’t take too long to start/finish something, just do it.
  2. Be ok with being a beginner again. It’ll be uncomfortable.
  3. Believe that “anything can be learned”. Even if it may take time/effort if it doesn’t come naturally, it’s possible to learn it eventually.
  4. Aim for competence, not genius. There are very few actual geniuses. …

Over the last few years, the sense of mounting loss and fear of losing touch with one’s past has been a resurfacing concern.

There’s an underlying fear about losing my “better” qualities/memories of the past in the presence of today and the pressures of tomorrow. By writing, I capture and retain who I’ve once was — the beliefs, tastes, values or passions that were important in the moment. This makes the inevitable passage of time more palatable.

If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of art block, here are some things I learned about working through the troughs of the creative…

Person with backpack in front of moving train
Person with backpack in front of moving train
Credit: Fabrizio Verrechia

How the pressures of increasing productivity diminish meaning

During this pandemic, the competing message that somehow you’re supposed to “take it easy” while facing the unspoken threat of layoffs/unemployment can be confusing.

On one hand, staying put can afford new opportunities. If we’ve have a surplus of time from not having a daily commute, for some, that might mean that we’ve gained an extra hour in a day. We might spend more quality time with family, pick up new hobbies, explore neglected interests/side projects, etc.

On the other hand, the feeling of constraint can be a pressure cooker on one’s existing responsibilities. …

Joanna Ngai

UX Designer at Microsoft, illustrator, green tea drinker | UX for Beginners

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