Category: Blog

In honor of full transparency, here are my 2015 goals:

Networking with entrepreneurs and social-impact designers
Attend one meetup per week
Spend 10 hours monthly at Impact Hub SF
Interview one social impact designer or entrepreneur per quarter
Meet interesting people – spend a 2-4 hours per week on twitter and other networks.

Skill development
Sign up for a 6-8 week coding bootcamp
Write one newsletter per week on my social impact newsletter
Practice visual design 10 hours per week (extra curricular), using Sketch or Photoshop
One photo per day – project 365 hosted on tookapic

Completely restrict sugar + white flour – I am currently 80% there, I want to be at 100%

Cut my spending in half (tough one – we’ll see!). I want to move from a 15% savings rate (past two years) to a 45% savings rate (for the next ten years).

I know I have some areas to work on. Specifically, correctly saying no to the wrong opportunities and being able to handle crucial conversations with poise. I haven’t decided how to enumerate this goal but I think it involves attending some classes + practicing with others.

1-2 month backpacking trip in another country
Train a few months solid for a bike tour
Rock Climb outdoors 1 time

Apple announced the iPhone6 this week and so I went digging for resources on how this will affect workflow. Recently at work, we’ve been debating our design process for designing in photoshop (naturally all designers bring slightly different processes to the table). Since these new phones will require re-visiting how we design in the future, I thought it would be a good time to see what the prevailing practices were.


I’m just now diving into the topic and I still am trying to wrap my head around [PPI/DPI/ other matters of resolution] ( So I probably have made some mistakes due to inexperience, too much math, and too much to drink last night. Welcome your comments and corrections.


I had a few questions when performing this research: When designing for iphone6 and 6+ resolutions, what are the changes needed in design workflow? Is there a special way we need to set up our files?

Here’s a round up of resources I found

You can read them on your own or read my summary below

To review, iPhone resolutions we are dealing with are iphone 4: 320×480 iPhone 5s: 320 x 568 iPhone 6: 375 x 667 iPhone6p: 414 x 736

Automatic scaling in 6 and 6plus

One thing to note is that the 6 and 6plus share an aspect ratio of 1.778666667 which is very close to the aspect ratio of the 5s’s aspect ratio of 1.775. Meaning, you can stretch your current designs out in the code to get a nice stopgap (unlike the big black box from the 4–> 5 transition). Xcode comes with an iPhone 6 simulator so we can already get an early preview of how our apps will look on the new phone, in iOS8

This isn’t a clean scaling of course. Because the five and six share pixel density, scaling things up will make things look larger on the 6. To make things look the same size, adjusting spacing will be necessary.

6plus digital PPI resolution is downscaled to fit 1080p screens

This is a really long article describing the math of the iPhone 6+ resolution. In short, the resolution is downsized in this version to fall in line with 1080p panels. We can design @3x but the concept of pixel perfect lines won’t exist in this world because downsampling will yield anti-aliasing that is undetectable by the human eye. It’s a long article so I copy the TLDR below.

TLDR; In the landscape of touch devices, PPI is getting higher and higher. An exercise of choosing the right scaling factor has to be carried out to get the touch devices fit into acceptable range of DPIs. At the heart of the implementation, Apple chose precise 3x scaling for its iPhone 6+ at 462ppi/154dpi 1242px by 2208px. But it is downsampled to fit its physical 1080p panel. TLDR of TLDR; On hardware, Apple screwed up. Not only we won’t get rumoured Sapphire glass screen, it is lower resolution screen than intended. On software, kudos to Apple for keeping its original native resolution.

Design from 1x or 2x or 3x

The last point I’ll bring up is that iPhone 6 asks for @3x assets. To deliver these assets, some designers recommend a workflow that starts@1x and exports assets for the different retina devices. Many UI designers use sketch as their design tool. Among their reasons to do so, of which there are many, is the ability to export for many different devices with a simple action. It also prevents many of the frustrations latent in a bloated tool like Photoshop, but I’ll save that discussion for another day.

If you do decide to design UI in photoshop — though I don’t see why you would do such a thing — it’s helpful to take a look at your canvas the way that this blogpost lays out. This post also includes a handy photoshop grid which uses 16px gridlines. Very helpful visualization + grid for design:

Some other speculative design implications on the new screen sizes:

  • Designs will need to be more flexible, using features like the new Adaptive Layout introduced by Apple as part of iOS8. I want to do a separate roundup for iOS8 implications on app design but from what I understand Adapative is to native as Responsive is to web.

  • Apple showed off the iPhone 6 Plus running in landscape mode, which used a two-pane UI similar to the iPad. The iPhone 6 Plus even has a landscape version of the home screen, so we can expect more pressure to get your apps working in landscape mode.

A client recently asked me, do you know any examples of effective marketing home pages? I floundered; I don’t usually pay attention to home pages, their mission statements and one-sided claims can be full of noise that I tend to filter out in favor of hard nosed reviews from trusted sources. The homepage is an important screen, don’t get me wrong, since it serves as a place to navigate to official business information, but asking about an effective homepage is like asking about effective movie trailers, or a compelling book cover. Should we care whether the varnish shines brightly or ask first if the table stands sturdy?

I would turn our focus from home pages towards the company story. Is it understandable, because it is written in plain English my mother would use? Is it compelling because it connects to our needs and real life experiences? Is it told imaginatively throughout the site, so that I can envision what life will be like after I become a customer? Only with these questions answered can the homepage be designed effectively, because it can be evaluated against the story, the foundation of the content strategy.

It’s November, on the week of giving thanks. Eleven out of twelve months gone and done; friends are making New Year’s parties plans. Maybe it’s the time of year, but I’ve been reflecting on 2013 a lot in the past few weeks.

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year. I’ve had the opportunity to work on some great projects, both successful and not-so-successful. All of them have taught me lessons and given me the opportunity to grow and work with intelligent & dedicated people.

I’ve done eighty or more sessions of yoga. I’m eating healthier and seeing my eczema go away.

I’ve had some new life experiences, including going to burning man and Belize. I’ve created new life goals and shorn away others, which (hopefully) pave my way towards the future. I’ve made stronger relationships with people who want me to succeed, including

@karianika, my family, @stephanieyang, @shame_on_yu, @dmadray, @robsurrency, @CarlNelson, @chriswchang, @koolandthechang, @mayeah, @christophino, @ctakaichi, @beth_lingard, @zachlau, @lorenbaxter

I’m thankful for experiencing frustration and fear, for the lessons they’ve taught me. But I’m also thankful for laughs and fun times, for giving me context and the perspective to realize that where I am is really quite good.

I’ve learned several lessons about work, design and life from the internet, books and other media. Here are the ones from this year that I highly recommend:

Business & productivity – Getting Things Done – The Personal MBA – The E-Myth Revisited – Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind – Design is a Job – Some of Ramit Sethi – Most of Merlin Mann

Psychology / Health
- The Power of Habit
- Nutrition podcasts: Latest in Paleo, Bulletproof Podcast, Not Just Paleo, Dishing up Nutrition – Your Brain at Work

Design & Creativity
- Interaction of Color
- Responsive Web Design
- The War of Art

- Lyft
- Stitcher
- Evernote
- Alfred
- Instacart

Shows and podcasts
- Daily Show
- Breaking Bad
- Back to Work
- 99% Invisible
- Freakonomics

It’s been a tremendous year, and a blogpost does it justice. I’ve started to feel an overarching sense of awe and immense gratitude for the experiences, people, and things in my life. I’ve had a fortunate past, the present is full of opportunity, and the future is limitless. I live in San Francisco, an amazing place to be. I’m surrounded by beauty, great food, and intelligent people. And I live in an amazing time. The technologies available today are making it easier to chase whatever dream you might have.

I hope I can make the most of all of it.

Feeling overwhelmed comes naturally as a consequence of getting started with GTD. This feeling has a variety of causes, including (but not limited to):

  • Doing a mental sweep that results in a very large number of project tasks.
  • Projects that sit in the queue for a long time with very little progress made.
  • Projects that are so old that you can’t remember what they are about, but you can’t remove them because you fear that they’re too important.

Personally, I feel overwhelmed when I have creative work to do. I can stare at a list full of creative tasks and freeze in terror. By contrast, small, routine tasks are a joy for me, no matter the volume. Cooking, cleaning, sending emails, making small changes to designs, coordinating between people, making household purchases — I love checking them off my list. But if I have to brainstorm or write or research an unknown topic? Maybe there are a few emails I can write instead…

After reflecting on my difficulty with these tasks, I’ve pinpointed the source of the problem: ambiguity.

When a task lacks specific definition, it can seem endless. With brainstorming, research, and writing I can fall down a rabbit hole, consuming hours of time without nearing completion. There are endless ideas to capture, a thousand links to click & read, and I can always squeeze a few more sentences into a story. I’ve rephrased this sentence a dozen times and it’s still not perfect.

The key to get through these types of tasks is to record them as concretely as possible. They need to be grounded in physical, specific and quantifiable actions. What was “brainstorm writing topics” should really be “write list of five people in the education & technology field”, or “spend fifteen focused minutes writing down ideas”, or “read five articles on wearable technology and summarize your findings in two sentences”. A test of whether your wording is too vague is to ask yourself “Could someone else reading the task imagine what I will be doing?” If not, the wording needs work.

What’s the point of rephrasing? I’ve facilitated a handful of creative workshops before, and I’ve researched creative psychology like an anthropologist, and I can think of at least three benefits of breaking down creative tasks in this way.

  1. It makes the task easier to visualize. Blue sky, open-minded thinking should be encouraged (especially in corporate cultures that lack innovation), but without constraints or bounds the activity can feel lost & directionless. Creating a timebox, or using a number of ideas or a specific prompt as a goal gives the task-doer knowledge that there will be a definite end to the activity. The task then appears to be a lot easier to complete and becomes less daunting to start.

  2. Urgency also plays into your psychology when you frame tasks like this. By giving myself only ten minutes, or knowing you’ll only have room for ten ideas, you add some additional pressure on yourself. Nothing forces you to act like your back into the wall.

  3. Lastly, giving yourself small creative tasks produces momentum. Doing ten minutes of work is not the whole journey, but it is better than doing nothing at all. Realize that your lofty goals are made up of a lot of smaller, itty bitty goals and that everyone should be able to celebrate the small wins to get to the big wins.

It’s helpful to find the baby step. I want to write a great sci-fi novel someday. But for now, I want to feel proud having spent a few hours finishing this blogpost.


Here are some excerpts from my task list

Decide whether to buy the indian rifle for my halloween costume from amazon” (2 weeks); In a dry spell for writing? Turn out some writing outlines” (someday); Is everything going positively at work? Are you busy? If not, ask for more at work” (30 days)

When I write scheduled tasks like the ones above, it’s like talking to my future self. I ask him questions, assuming he should know the answers. I present him with decisions, thinking he will be better equipped to make them. I even expect him to care more about the project than I do now. I put a lot of faith in the guy.

This Getting Things Done procedure reminds me of Leonard Shelby, the main character from the film Memento. He suffers from amnesia and is forced to write notes to himself which he later uses as clues to solve the mystery that drives the plot. Whenever Leonard snaps out of an amnesia blackout, he reads the notes from his past self — like messages from a trusted stranger — to deduce his story anew.

While most of us aren’t as debilitated as Leonard, we rely on outside systems when we cannot think or don’t want to. Technology has replaced the need to store memories, make decisions, and execute cognitive processes. You could say we all suffer from willful amnesia.

If that’s the case, we might consider sending messages to our future selves. Let him/her take care of it.

A task from Things

“45 days of” is a sometimes-series of posts about me trying out a new behavior for 45 days. I’ll set goals, reflect on outcomes, and catalog my experience for the benefit of anyone trying to adopt a new habit.

I can’t remember where I first found out about GTD. I think it was around the time I first downloaded an app called Things. At the time, I was looking for a checklist app to “boost my productivity”. I knew GTD was somehow involved, but never really dove into the topic. “I don’t have time to read”, I thought, “I got stuff to do!” Besides, who needs to read a book when I have a cool software product to do the work for me? This app was going to make hard work magically go away.

Believe it or not, that type of thinking led me to failure. I’d use the software for a few weeks, feel unremarkably un-transformed, and then go into crisis mode. I’d wonder what the point was to checking a bunch of check-boxes (which is valid because if that’s all you’re doing, you’re doing GTD it wrong) or why I was putting things on the list that I would never complete and would cause me anxiety. It seemed like a good way to let myself down.

Fast forward to the present, and I’ve spent the past fourteen days revisiting the topic in some depth. I’ve listened to ten hours of productivity podcasts discussing GTD, as well as five hours of the book on tape. I’ve borrowed the book from the library and am about 60 pages into it.

What inspired my resurgence? I stumbled onto a series of podcasts dealing with GTD on Merlin Mann’s show, “Back to Work”. The show topic and the symptoms he talks about resonated with me and stirred my action.

What symptoms am I talking about?

If you’re like me, you find something rewarding about productivity. The act of creating something where nothing existed before brings you joy. You feel like life isn’t complete unless you are doing, producing, progressing — anything less bores you to tears.

Yet your love of productivity might also be hurting you. Your work rarely if ever meets your ambitions. You have more goals than you can reasonably make progress on. The thought of your long to-do list produces anxiety and worry. And you dwell on it. And you procrastinate.

If the above sounds familiar, then we’re in a similar place. If you want to do something about it, then we share the same journey with a lot of other people, some of whom I would describe as productive and successful. Merlin Mann is a prolific guy but he describes experiencing some of the same worries & fears that I do. He says that this system changed his life. How can you turn that endorsement down?

So I’ve decided to restart my GTD practice after neglecting it or doing it half-assed for several months.

What’s different now is that I’m taking time to understand the material, instead of playing endlessly with software. I’m discovering that beyond the organizational tools, GTD is a framework for thinking about, organizing, and executing knowledge work. It is a mental practice that, if mastered, promises to keep my to-do list at bay and help me reach more of my goals.

I’ll try to elaborate on these practices in the future, but for now I’d just like to say that I’ve noticed a shift & I’m feeling encouraged.

My six weeks of daily yoga practice ended last week. By the end of it, many people have asked how it went, did I see changes, would I recommend it, etc. I tell them without equivocation that they should practice yoga.

The reasons I recommend it are not because of any physical gains one might experience. While one will undoubtedly benefit from increased strength, flexibility and overall alignment, each physical lesson is matched by a subtle and important mental lesson. These changes — affecting mood, perception, and focus — are the gains I’m most happy to share and recommend.

Tuning in

One of the interesting features of yoga is that it offers the opportunity to challenge yourself to the degree that you wish. It is an extremely personal practice in this way: each person is responsible for finding their own level of difficulty that challenges them without causing injury. To find a suitable level of difficulty — the edge of each pose — requires physical awareness, making confident decisions about your limitations, and adjusting to your unique situation. Diet, stress and sleep ensure that no two days will be exactly the same, so a yogi practices “tuning” in to meet each situation with a unique approach.

Awareness we apply towards the body can also be applied to the mind. When you sit in stillness you can observe your mind and its unique state in a given moment. How enthusiastic, attentive, pre-occupied, curious, anxious, energetic am I feeling at this moment? What steps do I need to take, what adjustments and decisions should I make, now that I have this information?  This dialogue connecting awareness and action has helped me make better decisions and made me happier overall. While I still approach each day giving my best, I know that each day offers unique challenges and that I need to adjust my actions & expectations for the unique circumstances of the situation.


Forward, backward, left and right. Deepen and lengthen. During practice we simultaneously activate complementary muscle areas to find a static posture. When some areas (like our core muscles) are weak, we lose balance or we over-rely on other areas (back, arms) to prop us up. Achieving balance is a core principle in yoga and requires strengthening weaker muscles, regions we haven’t paid enough attention to.

This same philosophy can be applied to how we spend our time. Work & play, being social & being alone, mental & physical activities — each one of us balances these activities to achieve a livable state. Due to yoga, or perhaps just a consequence of becoming older, I feel like I’m paying more attention to how my activities are balanced, and dedicating time to areas I’ve neglected.

Being upside down

Inversions — headstand, handstands, shoulder stands — are part of advanced yoga practice. These poses can be challenging if, like me, you’re not very comfortable being upside down. I never did cartwheels as a kid, still don’t, and I still can’t execute a dive into the swimming pool. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines in a safe environment like a yoga studio.

One thing I’ve learned about inverting is that it requires a mental commitment: no amount of calm breathing can take you where you need to go. The posture requires a motion forward, a powerful upward spring of your step. I’ve learned that you can’t half ass it: weak attempts brought me back to the earth, feet landing with a dull thud, feeling safe but not satisfied in that safety.

Headstands provide a final valuable lesson in approaching life decisions with force and momentum. Once you decide to take action, don’t waiver. Focus on the end state and deliver. The only way to ruin a pose or action is to mentally defeat it before you’ve started.

Newly minted yogi

Yoga has taught me about my mental life & capabilities; it’s shown me patterns and habits as well as illustrated the potential within every one of us, once mental energy is directed away from unconscious habits.

I wouldn’t say that my life has forever and dramatically changed. However, there has been some shift, and I like the direction that things are going. I want to pronounce my continuing commitment: to rise every morning early, keep up a fitness routine, and start a home yoga practice. I believe that these will continue to help me achieve awareness, balance, courage and peace.


I am writing this at 5 am. It’s early, earlier than most people are awake. Someone told me that this time of the morning is “what i consider leaving-for-the-airport early”.

I am awake because it is the first day of a yoga workshop: six weeks of classes which happen every weekday morning, at 6am. For some reason I already feel accomplished by being up at this time. Which is stupid because I am going to have a hell of a week ahead of me, and waking up on day one is roughly 2% of the journey.

Still I’m proud of my decision, and also excited, optimistic and eager. I feel excited about working in this new schedule because I’ve always felt more productive in the mornings. I’m optimistic because I know that the days which have started with yoga are more effective and more peaceful. And I look forward to the end results of six weeks of labor: greater flexibility, muscle strength and a better perspective on life.

I set up a sunday schedule that got me to bed by 830. Which is something I’ll have to continue to do for the rest of the week. I’ll post a photo of my progress as I go.

Signing off to stretch,