Beyond the px — Superhuman’s Teresa Man on designing with intention, broadening your education, and finding your feet

Luis Ouriach
Aug 15 · 5 min read

I’m very proud to announce Teresa Man as this month’s Beyond the PX guest. She’s not only mastered print design, but led teams and is now really pushing the needle at Superhuman — everyone’s favourite email client.


Can you explain briefly who Superhuman are and what you do?

Superhuman is the fastest email experience in the world!

Our users get through their inbox twice as fast as before, and many see inbox zero for the first time in years.

What has been your design journey up until now?

I became fascinated with design when I started making websites in Geocities.

By the age of 11, I had made about 5 or 6 websites on my favourite Disney characters, and they were all heavy in JavaScript effects, Flash animations, and marquee text banners.

In college, I studied graphic design but focused my classes and projects exclusively in print because I wanted a career in editorial.

After a short stint in publishing and working for several magazines, I transitioned to working in advertising. My time at the agency re-introduced me to website design and brought my love for the craft to a full circle, and I decided to pivot into designing digital experiences.

Six years later, I have led design at a digital consulting agency and am now a design lead at Superhuman.

What does your typical morning look like?

My weekday mornings are fairly predictable… I am usually out the door within 20 minutes of my alarm going off.

I walk to work every day, unplugged (as in — not listening to any audio). Recently I’ve been trying to not look at my phone until after I have arrived at work.

It’s my attempt in keeping my headspace clear of technology and noise from social media, and it’s been working pretty well!

What does your design tool stack look like?

Figma, Principle, Xcode, Dropbox, Slack, Paper + Fineliner.

Outside of work, do you hang out with designers?

A good percentage of my friends are peers I’ve come to know from the industry or old colleagues from previous design teams!

Though outside of work, I don’t really talk shop and I spend my time with them doing non-designy things… except for when we just have to comment on particular font choices from restaurant menus.

How do you design ‘for the future’ without being cliche?

I think being cliché lies in the concept of repetition — some form of recycling old ideas or redoing something tried-and-true by other companies.

At Superhuman, we break this model and really try to design with intentionality (by listening to customers) and intuition (by creating experiences that may differ from existing paradigms but are truly delightful).

What was it that attracted you to the email space?

Great question! Prior to Superhuman, I have never aspired to work in the email space nor had any particular fondness towards emails in general. Email was just a “thing” that needed to be done everyday.

My lack of passion towards email, something I’ve regarded as an inevitable annoyance and time sink, was pleasantly contradicted by the folks at Superhuman who were all driven by their mission to build a tool that gives people back the time that they otherwise would have spent on emails.

The level of energy, clarity, and dedication from the team was unmatched and it very much drew me to joining the company.

Beyond that, I was also incredibly fascinated by the product’s focus in speed and was intrigued by all of the design challenges that come with building the fastest email experience.

What advice would you give for those interested in kick starting a career in designing for the market?

Product design is rooted in so many adjacent fields of studies such as psychology, behavioural economics, and game design.

I think it is especially important to have an all-encompassing view when designing for productivity — an area where people are usually accustomed to old habits and learned behaviours.

Even something seemingly tangential such as learning how to be a great listener can prove to be helpful when applying empathetic thinking towards designing a product.

A few books I recommend:

- The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
- Characteristics of Games by George Skaff Elias
- Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I really enjoyed Teresa’s take on how Superhuman manage to stretch their approach to thinking ‘outside the box’. It’s so important not to buy into trends because you feel like it’s the only way to succeed. Analyse your market, and understand what makes your users tick; the creativity will flow from there.

Also, I couldn’t agree more on the importance of spreading your interests. Read outside of design, listen to music, watch movies and your creativity will flourish.

See you next month.

P.s. we’ve teamed up with DesignLab to offer out their courses to 8px readers. Want to learn UX from some of the industry masters? They offer both short and long courses, where you’re teamed up with mentors from Github, Dropbox and the BBC.

8px Magazine

Life, by designers.

Luis Ouriach

Written by

Design honcho @UpgradePack. Newsletter writer, co-host @thenoisepod, creator of @8pxmag, @juniordesignjob, @LondonIsYours. Sarcastic.

8px Magazine

Life, by designers.

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