Be user centric and focused. Build a give-and-take relationship that engages users to teach the AI.

Designers today most likely have been designing for products that use some level of AI for automation. We have been designing in the first stage of AI, artificial narrow intelligence. To get to the second stage of AI, artificial general intelligence, we need user data. Lots of it. How do we get this information?

To better understand how design makes AI smarter, you can first take a quick look at the different stages of AI in You can be an AI designer. Or, come back to it later.

Collecting human input and data is crucial to achieving artificial general intelligence…

You may not know it, but as a product designer, you most likely have been designing for products that use some form of artificial intelligence.

Specifically, these products are working within the first stage of AI, artificial narrow intelligence. We, designers, play a key role in shaping how AI will develop. We already have the necessary skills to push it forward. My next post will touch on how design makes AI smarter.

But first, it’s beneficial to understand where we are at in the three stages of AI to be better informed on how we can use design to improve AI.

Products that run on artificial narrow intelligence can perform specific automated tasks extremely well, but they are unable to apply that knowledge to tasks…

I’ve designed two chatbot products in the last 1.5 years. The first was smart and slow. The second is not as smart but fast. Both intend to be smart and fast. I’ll get to the benefits, drawbacks, and design decisions for both.

In 2015, with a team of <10 people, we’ve built a bot that automated your office. Half of that team were human agents. This year, I am designing a personal shopping bot at eBay. None are human agents.

The office assistant bot (Large) did well immediately. Teams completed transactions from day 1 and reengaged weekly. We were as…

Do you want to innovate the present or create the future?

I was introduced to future-making by Alisa Leonard (#ToTheFuture) and and Paul Kuhn at Northside Festival this year. I realized at that moment that “innovation” is the norm, not the future.

Sell like you would in real life

Last year, I was part of a startup that created one of the first, if not the first, office assistant bot on Slack.* Majority of my design career previously was spent in the e-commerce space with a heavy focus on conversion. Naturally, when I started working on bot conversations I drew from my experience designing sites and apps. The more I’ve been working on commerce bots, the more I’ve started switching my perspective and drawing from my experience as a sales associate instead.

The first thing I did when someone stepped into the store was to acknowledge them. (Have you…

I’ve always thought of myself as being lucky.

Lucky to have been born in America. Lucky to have been raised in the SF Bay Area. Lucky to have my education paid for. Lucky to feel taken care of.

But, it wasn’t luck. My parents, since before I was born and still now, work 7 days a week, 15 hour days. It was all part of a plan so that my sister, brother, and I could feel lucky.

My dad is the oldest in his family of 7 children. He had the huge responsibility in making sure the family was fed. As a child who could only do so…

One great thing about making requests through our personal bot, Large, is that you can multi-task. You will not be told you took too long to make a decision so now you’ll need to tell me all over again what you’re looking for.

But during this waiting period, the assistant may be multi-tasking as well, making it more difficult to keep track of the different conversations and requests within a team and among all the teams. (As mentioned in a previous post, Large was run by only a handful of people and a baby bot.) Things can get cray.


Of course people asked Large for illegal things. People said things that they probably tried on Siri in the middle of the night. It was natural to ask for pizza then, “ABORT” when it became too real. People also asked Large to perform tasks that perhaps a service like Meekan would be more suitable for. And, we recommended those services. We did successfully fulfill many legal requests like office cleanings, lunch deliveries, happy hours, and personal purchases. We were figuring out our limit at the same time people were testing it. …

When I joined Assembly as a product designer, we were working on a platform that brought designers, engineers, product managers, and whoever together to build digital products. Design was in the form of interfaces for writing, posting, showing appreciation, commenting, and displaying data. Then, shift happened.

I started my design career as an art director in interactive advertising. I was designing websites, utilities, social media posts, and everything visual that’s strategically created to increase conversion and awareness. When I left advertising, I went deeper into product design and user experience. I was creating interfaces in fast-paced, iterative environments where I…

Elaine Lee

Designing for AI at Twilio. Product designer with experience in psychology, advertising, marketplaces, edtech, and hacking at whatevs. 🦁

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store