On “ease-of-use” and accountability in design.

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The first question I ask when meeting other designers is how they would define design. Some have asserted that there are no wrong answers to this question. They are wrong.

Here are three examples of what design is not:

  1. “Design is making something beautiful”
  2. “Design is making something easy to use.”
  3. “Design is making something beautiful and easy to use.”

Some of you may find this confusing. Because according to the wisdom of Twitter’s top design influencers, design is form and function — how it looks and how it works, right?



Why have we defined beauty and ease of use as the non-negotiable North Stars of design? When was the last time we’ve stopped to ask ourselves, “does the product I am working on deserve to be beautiful? Does the feature my PM wants to ship deserve to be intuitive and easy to use?” …

A speculative vision of the operating system, driven by humane design principles.

Nine months ago, I set out to invent a new way of interfacing with our devices, armed with only a single metaphor: Mercury.

Mercury, the elemental manifestation of fluid chrome.
Mercury, the Roman deity bridging the boundary between two worlds.
Mercury, the nearest planet to the sun.

Although these versions of Mercury had little to do with interaction design, they perfectly summarized how I wanted the experience of computation to feel. I wanted the experience to feel fluid. I wanted to create something that users could move through without friction or boundaries. …

Why I set out to re-imagine the operating system

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Amidst an unstable childhood, my Desktop was my retreat — a place I could find solace and belonging. The Start button was a gateway to opportunity and each Folder a comfortable if imperfect container for my belongings. No matter how overwhelming the outside world became, I knew that my Desktop would stay the same.

Years passed. Social media exploded, and the three years and ten thousand kilometers separating a teenager and his childhood dissolved with a click. My world was changing, but my Desktop stayed the same.

Years passed. And passed. And passed. As technology accelerated, so did society’s demands on our collective bandwidths. The smartphone boom led to an avalanche of Apps. Notifications multiplied pathogenically, and the corporations behind them soon learned to tug on my vulnerabilities — Engage! …

Exactly one year ago, I published my Apple Music Case Study on Medium.

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Empirical evidence that clickbait titles can still house good content.

I remember trembling with excitement (and a tinge of fear) as I hit the publish button at 8PM. I remember sharing happy tears with those who kept me afloat through ugly tears. I remember waking up at 6 AM the next day to dozens of notifications — and watching that number jump into the hundreds as I waited in line for my usual (large iced Americano with an extra shot) at Coffee Lab.

I remember realizing that my life was about to change.

As I watched my view-count explode in the hours that followed, I found myself in awe of just how many people were saying yes to me and my story. …

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To design is to question.

At RISD, our focus has never been on how to create, but why we create. We are trained to be future-facing, to ask how the changes in our world might be observed and developed in order to benefit us all.

We are concerned that RISD may not always be up to standards when it comes to current trends, specifically those surrounding computation and technology. Although trends are inherently ephemeral, it would be foolish to ignore them, as their impact can be significantly augmented when paired with the right kind of inquiry.

Opportunities like RISD’s CTC Concentration have been able to leverage our community’s growing interest in computational art+design. However, practice revolving around digital technologies outside established curriculum has remained limited. We attribute this to a lack of community space for students interested in said subject. …

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I’d like to preface this case study by stating that my intentions behind redesigning Apple Music were in no way driven by indignation or spite.

Earlier this year I applied and interviewed for a graphic design internship at Apple Music (an opportunity of a lifetime), and was turned down with a very kind letter stating that although they liked my work, they wanted to see more growth and training.

At first, I was frustrated — Northwestern University doesn’t offer any sort of undergraduate graphic design program, so whatever growth they were looking for would have to be self taught…

…but as soon as I came to this realization, I became inspired to embark on what became a a three-month long journey to the holy grail — the iOS app that Apple Music deserves.

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Welcome to the NU Brand Bootcamp, a personal project I am undertaking this quarter. Every week, I will explore and redesign a logo of a Northwestern University student organization as a means to grow as a designer and understand what it takes to truly build a brand.

Stuco, or the “student theatre coalition,” is an umbrella organization encompassing nine “theatre boards” that are responsible for the majority of theatre productions on campus.

Each board also has their own logo, ranging in style and quality…

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Inexplicably, both the Stuco logo and the’s board logo must be displayed simultaneously.

Recently, I was stuck with an idea. “What if I could unify all the theatre boards under a unified Stuco™ brand?” I got to work, only to be stalled under my other commitments like classwork and sleep. …

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Welcome to the NU Brand Bootcamp, a personal project I am undertaking this quarter. Every week, I will explore and redesign a logo of a Northwestern University student organization as a means to grow as a designer and understand what it takes to truly build a brand.

SHAPE (Sexual Health & Assault Peer Educators)

Mission: “to provide education, organize events, and stimulate discussion and awareness on issues surrounding sexual health and sexual assault”

Brand Evolution:

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First logo (that I was able to find), 2009


Jason Yuan

everything sucks; reinvent everything

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