Hoa Thai is the owner of Seattle-based Pixels and Form, a boutique digital agency specializing in mobile apps, product design, and crafting engaging digital experiences.
What do you do?
I run a small team of designers and craftsmen, helping early stage start-ups and internal teams at medium to large enterprises create new products. We engage at an early stage of the product inception when it might be just an idea and help refine the problem, craft the market position and audience/persona, design the UI/UX, and develop the front-end.
Tell us your design philosophy in three words.
Form, Function, Experience. It's a logical extension of Form Follows Function.
What are your tools of the trade?
Sketch, Invision, Balsamiq, Photoshop, Illustrator, Google Apps, Coda, Github.
Name of the book/magazine closest to you now.
Industrial Design: Reflection Of A Century, New Yorker mags, Le Corbusier, Dwell
What is your proudest professional moment?
My team and I helped a start-up get accepted into Y-Combinator. A few co-founders approached us to help with a new product concept. We worked with the founders to refine the product direction and crafted a proof of concept in time for their YC interview. The founders were accepted into YC and told us that the prototype was one of the reasons for their acceptance into Y-Combinator.
What made me proud of our contributions was that we executed professionally, expertly, and efficiently to deliver a solution that helped our partner succeed and validated our design and decisions.
What's your one UX pet peeve?
Obfuscated Affordance. In the early stage of flat design, it was tedious to determine actions vs. content. Having call-to-actions that are not obvious, too optimized, look like ads, can lead to the lack of comprehension and decrease user engagement and task completion.
What qualities does someone need to succeed in crafting experiences?
Be a problem solver! Think multi-dimensional because design is temporal, people experience products differently based on their first-time visit vs. repeat usage and growing knowledge of the product. Embrace technical knowledge; otherwise design that can't be built is art.
What is the next paradigm shift for this industry?
Product Thinking will expand designers' influence.
Are UX and UI still a good way to describe what designers are doing now? Do we need a new word or words? What would your word(s) be?
UI/UX is too specific because it defines a particular area of influence and skillset. The industry has matured, so there are many more specialties within our profession (e.g. IA, interaction, visual, etc.). Depending on the project's complexity and company size, there will be needs for creative skills encompassing a larger spectrum of design services.
As for words: I've combined the titles “Product Design” and “User Experience Design” to be “Product Experience Design”. Replacing “User” with “Product” establishes more strategic potential, whereas, “User Experience” and “UI/UX” are more tactical and represents lesser influence and expectations.