Maker Hunt’s AMA with Meng To from Design+Code
We’re here with Meng To. He’s a designer, coder and author of Design+Code. He’s also been traveling and working for 18 months across 30 cities and 20 countries. He’s doing awesome work. We’ll let him introduce himself so that you know a bit more about his story. Then, we’ll get right into the questions. So Meng To we’re ready for your intro.
Hello all. It’s a privilege to be here. I’m Meng and I’m currently writing from my tiny hotel room in Tokyo. I’ve been traveling for almost 2 years now. I started out as a graphic designer in Montreal 15 years ago and learned the Web, then moved to mobile. I went through the all the trends: Matrix, Flash, Web 2.0, Skeuomorphic, Flat, you name it.
Wow, I did not expect so many people. I’ll try my best to answer everyone!
Design iOS apps with Swift. Build a news reader app from Sketch to the App Store.designcode.io
Q. Congrats on the year anniversary of your launch…Can you tell us how the year has been? — Ben Tossell
My last year has been the best of my life. I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime in just one year. Visited so many amazing places and met so many great people. More importantly, I got to teach people in person, which was a dream of mine.
Q. What is your average daily routine? — Eric Willis
When you travel, it’s hard to have a steady routine, so I just go with the flow. I adapt to the cultures. And to my fiance ☺. I’ve been a late sleeper because I focus better at night. I wake up at 10am, do work to keep focus, then explore food.
Hey Meng! I’m a big fan! I’m really inspired by your work and I think what you do is just amazing! Q. Did the idea about writing a book come after your new visa was denied or was this something you wanted to do for a longer time? — Marko Vuletič
When I got my visa denied, it was devastating. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go back to Montreal and restart my career. So I did the crazy thing.
After 8 months of travel and 6 months in HK, I still didn’t know if I was going to write a book. I just knew that I had to make some bucks because you know, it’s scary to travel without money. I spent all my money from my work in HK on a ring.
Q. What’s the most difficult thing in the nomad life and how did you do it? — Xiao
First, I think traveling can be scary. You never know if you can get in. And it’s just scary to know if you have enough money or if people will welcome you. But, it’s the most amazing feeling when you do. Small wins are the best.
Q. Have you moved completely to Sketch from Photoshop? I’m currently learning Sketch — should I eventually learn to PS to create full apps? — Win
Yes, for UI design I’ve moved completely to Sketch. I just think it’s extremely efficient to design directly with Artboards and think about the way it works on mobile straight away. I still use Photoshop for image editing and Lightroom. I’m a big Photography fan.
Q. What got you started in design? — Eric Willis
When I was young, I liked to draw stuff. I guess that translated well to the world of computers. I think the biggest thing that got me into design was computer games: Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo. Command and Conquer back in the day.
Q. What influences you? — Marko Vuletič
So when I was in Tokyo, I had to find a way to make more. I just knew that I had people interested in my blogs about iOS so I made a bet on a book. It’s crazy what being cornered can do to your motivations.
As Steve Jobs put it, stay hungry and stay foolish.
Q. What books would you recommend for learning UI/UX design concepts? Its one things knowing the tools. its another to use them correctly — Win
For the books, it’s hard for me to recommend because I never really read books about UI / UX. When I read books, I like to watch history in the making. The greats that came before us. That’s why my book is almost only focus on practice. I 100% believe in practice. That’s the only way to be good at something. So if you want to get good at UI/UX, just bleed UI/UX. Go to Dribbble, watch great people make stuff and replicate 100x over.
SketchDesign.io is from my friend Jean-Marc who did Sparrow. He’s awesome. His course is entirely about UI design in Sketch. Mine is about the whole experience of designing an app, from Sketch to Xcode. I even talk about some of the design principles that I use. I think whatever you write should be a reflection of you. So Design+Code is exactly how I go about with building products. I just don’t like to wait. I’m a very impatient person.
Q. What entrepreneur inspires you the most and why? — Ben Tossell
I think my answers would be obvious: Steve Jobs, Elon Musk. I do think that people look more at the outer layers of these entrepreneurs. I like to look at the inner layers. Because when you understand values, you can apply that to anything you do.
Q. I still struggle with picking good color combinations for my designs. Any tips, tools or tricks you can share? — Mubashar Iqbal
Colors are tricky to get right. My best suggestion is to not go crazy if you’re not comfortable.
Most people make the mistake to go with some vibrant colors without even understanding how it impact the structure of the design. Like with anything in design, just keep practicing until it feels right. What does that mean? Well, I guess you’re going to the basics. Taste is what I mean. Also your intuition will tell you if something looks right or not. Go back practicing, do other stuff that relates to colors. Like photography. Watch nature unfold. Nature is the best painter.
Q. Any tips for dealing with bad wifi/internet when traveling? That was my biggest issue with working while traveling in hotels and remote places — Anand Sharma
So, I actually managed to do better as I travel more and because technology is getting so much better every year.
This year, I just get a SIM card at the airport straight. Then, I go to Booking.com and check the Wifi ratings for those places. 8.0+ should give you good Wifi. I don’t care about Wifi spots anymore. They’re just annoying. Hotel + Sim Card + Unlocked iPhone. It’s like living in the US.
Also, entrepreneurship isn’t restricted to Silicon Valley. Look at Jiro for example, he invested 50 years perfecting Sushi. Craftsmanship > Money.
Q. Do you use AirBnb or just Hotels? — Marko Vuletič
I do prefer hotels because as a visitor, you want to be from walkable distances to great restaurants and attractions. It’s very very hard in an apartment. I guess it depends on how long you stay and how the transportation is there but I like to walk. It’s a great motivator to exploration. Commuting is a great anti-motivator to exploration. I guess for me and my fiance it is. Especially if the weather is bad.
And btw, hotels aren’t less expensive than Airbnb. It’s just typically smaller and has no kitchen. I feel like sites like Booking.com and Agoda really made the whole hotel system a lot more like Airbnb. Very convenient. And my favorite part: instant booking. No waiting after a response, which is a great time killer.
Q. Hi Meng — what’s next for Design+Code? Anything you can share? Future chapters? — Kenny Chen
So it’s been a little more than a year since I started learning Xcode. The book was launched a year ago. I feel like I’m just catching up to my level in the Web. But compared to the Web, I feel like I can finally expand a whole lot more, versus on the Web, I felt stuck to learning the same things over and over. Like the same things, but different languages, or frameworks. But in iOS, I finally feel like “Wow, I can use this new tech, I can use 80% of other frameworks that I never imagined was possible” like Watchkit, Gestures, etc. So I feel more ready now to learn new stuff. The basics are out of the way. My next step would be to use Swift to make Mac apps and build a Watch app. And probably to learn Android at some point this year or the next.
Q. Hey ☺ I’m curious why you chose to settle on mobile design as your focus for your book and tutorials? — Paula Borowska
Mobile is the future. I like to invest in skills that make sense in 5–10 years. I think, with good reason, we’re all in love with the Web. But that infatuation is also a great weakness into moving on to the next great chapter of technology. iOS development is just way more fun and you can do a whole lot more. The technologies are way beyond. Untapped. People think that drawing stuff in SVG is great. It is. But what if you could literally reinvent the way humans use technology with sensors, geo location, new input formats. Now that’s exciting.
Q. Are you coming by Osaka one of these days? ☺— Sacha Greif
Dude, I was planning to. But there was NOTHING I could book. The Japanese look their Sakura. But if you come by Tokyo, let’s meet. I’m sure I’ll see you in SF or somewhere in the world soon.
Q. I definitely agree. I’m exploring the niche myself. You exclude Android though, right why only focus on iOS? Is it just easier? — Paula Borowska
I don’t exclude Android. I just don’t feel ready to tackle Android yet. I think iOS has a great sense of craftsmanship. Sometimes I don’t want to think. And iOS is good at not making you think too much.
Q. I must say I’m also extremely impressed with the community you were able to make around your book. How do you keep it up? — Paula Borowska
I’m also very impressed with the Facebook group. We’re already at 5.6k strong and most importantly people are active and positive. They’re learning some hard stuff so it’s important to have a community to support that. How do I keep up? I don’t I let others do the work. I just fuel the culture and the updates on the book. I help like a community member.
Q. You traveled a lot, what place would you recommend for me to move to and continue to work as a freelancer? — Alex
Only you know what places you want to visit. Go with that. Motivation is key when you’re traveling. Don’t focus too hard on exploring. Keep a piece of yourself and be a good builder. Contribute wherever you go. Also, learn to be flexible. Adapt. For example, screw that giant iMac. And screw the mouse. Be a flexible machine. Work anywhere you want. Budapest, Korea, Shanghai. Great internet, affordable and great food. If you want to go a little more expensive: Tokyo, Singapore, SF, London. If you want to go on the cheap side, go Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia. Budapest is also cheap & Prague.
Q. Any plans on covering WatchKit and designing for it? — Lachlan Campbell
Definitely looking into Watchkit. I don’t think it’s going to be hard. I mean you’re not really building entire apps, you’re more building an extension to an iOS app. From what I’ve seen and learnt, it’s really easy to do something with the Watch. And yes it’s coming to Design+Code ☺
We’ve run about 30 minutes over. I think we should wrap this up now. Lots of great questions tonight (early morning for others). We really want to thank Meng To for taking the time to do this AMA. I’ve learned a lot and I’m sure everyone has as well. If you haven’t purchased Design+Code yet, please check it out at https://designcode.io/
Hope I answered all the questions. If I missed it, please don’t hesitate to send me a tweet. I always answer to people on Twitter. That was really great, thanks so much for inviting me here!
Next AMA is with:
Cat Noone — Co-Founder & Design @LiberioApp. Big on side-projects. Advisor. Build meaningful things with my partner in crime @blehnert 3pm EST March 23rd
Keep an eye out on our Twitter — @MakerHunt for details/updates.
Special thanks to Meng and everyone who participated. If you’re a maker with a product on ProductHunt, be sure to sign up to participate in the AMAs and connect with others.