Inside Segment Design: Meet Kevin

Kate Hsiao
Nov 16, 2020 · 5 min read

Inside Segment Design is a series designed to shine the spotlight on the talented team of designers and researchers that make up the Segment design team. We’ll publish a series of articles that will follow each team member on their career path and journey to Segment. Read our previous piece in the series here!

Medium, meet Kevin — an enormously talented design lead at Segment. When he’s not delivering top-notch dad jokes and puns, he spends his time working on complex Enterprise-grade features that have leveled up the Segment user experience across all product areas. His expertise and thoughtfulness when it comes to design have made him a key asset to our team.

So Kevin, where are you from?

I feel like I’m from all over really. Truth is, I never know how to answer that question succinctly, but here’s my best attempt — I was born in West Virginia, lived in Oklahoma for a while, and then spent most of my childhood growing up in Taiwan. After I graduated high school, I went to Tufts University in Boston, and migrated out West to San Francisco where I’ve been ever since.

How did you get into Design?

I’ve always been really interested in cars. Not racing fast and furious style or making crazy modifications, but in the interior design of cars. When I was in school, I thought I had to become an engineer to design cars, but I came across a really interesting major at Tufts called Engineering Psychology, which was their label for Human Factors and Ergonomics. It was probably the coolest thing I have ever studied. It really opened my mind to how much design thinking goes into so many things, no matter how tiny or mundane they may seem. For example, the height of your door handle, shape, thickness, and angle of rotation was most probably carefully thought through by someone. The menu and labels on your microwave, the depth and height of the stairs you take, the spacing of each key on your keyboard — all have had ergonomic considerations in their design.

Although I never eventually became a car designer, the program at Tufts opened up my mind to the myriad of areas I could apply my interest in. I did an internship at a company designing automated voice systems, and then started my first job as a usability researcher evaluating various products, from vehicle diagnostic touch screen systems to medical applications to instruction manuals. I really credit this job for exposing me to the world of what usability and design could be, and setting a good foundation for me as I transitioned into product design.

From that point on, I’ve had the lucky opportunity to be a part of design teams at several companies building cool products. I’ve worked with a lot of very talented designers and researchers that have taught me a whole lot more about design, and helped me grow my design and research skills.

How did you come across Segment?

I first found out about Segment at an earlier job, when I was designing an integrations page that allowed people to connect different applications and enable or disable them. I came across the Segment app during my competitive research and brainstorm, and really liked the UI. I remember thinking that Segment must have really strong design to create a UI so simple and intuitive.

Fast forward a couple of years, when I had the chance to speak with the design team at Segment, what struck me immediately was not only the caliber of the team, but the warmth, passion, and friendliness of everyone I met. Culture is always a big factor that I look at when joining a new company, and Segment made me feel like family from day one.

What is your role at Segment?

I’m a lead product designer on our Beam team, which is responsible for our Enterprise level features and foundational functionality that span across different product areas in Segment. The nature of the problems I work with tend to evolve around scale and advanced functionality for Enterprise customers and require collaboration with designers and product teams across different functional areas.

What’s a recent project you’ve worked on?

I’m currently working with Kate Butterfield and Anthony Wong on a redesign of our in-app homepage. We want to make sure our homepage better enables customers to understand the overall status and health of their account, provides useful and engaging insights, and guides them in completing the core tasks they log on to perform. This has been a very exciting project to work on because of the collaborative opportunities between product, design, research, and engineering from the beginning of the discovery process. During our customer research, we tried a participatory design exercise that had customers sketch out what they were looking for on a homepage, and we got incredible insights that have, in turn, triggered a lot of creative ideas in our own internal design brainstorms. I’m super excited about this project and can’t wait to see our final designs.

What topic could you give a 20-minute presentation on without any preparation?

So, I like cars. Design aspect aside, I also like driving them. In stick-shift, especially. There’s just so much that’s involved with driving a stick shift smooth and well (and I still have much to learn), it feels like an exciting challenge with every trip. So while I am not a professional driver by any means, I can probably spend 20 minutes talking about how to drive a stick shift car.

If you had to choose an alternative career path, what would it be?

A commercial airline pilot, there is something really alluring about being able to fly above the world and see things from a very unique perspective.