Issue 11

In Issue No11, UK government employee Mark Hurrell talks about designing functional websites without big bangs or big dramas; Joyce Kim connects the dots between human rights and digital currencies; Khoi Vinh gives us a frank assessment of his ever-changing career as designer, blogger, and entrepreneur; app maker Björn Jeffery makes his case for a new generation of digital toys on screens; Torontonian Kris Piotrowski reminisces about video games and the emotional ups and downs of making them; and Dave Pell shows us how to combine investing and sending emails to make a living.


Mark Hurrell

Designer at the UK government — on functional minimalism, what critical art practice taught him about the design process, and how geek culture ruins everything.

Joyce Kim

Director at Stellar — on what she learned in the Ivy League, using technology to avoid dystopia, and bringing financial literacy to the unbanked.

Khoi Vinh

Designer, blogger, entrepreneur — on the legacy of having worked for The New York Times, futuristic creation devices, and the realities of growing older on the web.

Björn Jeffery

Co-Founder of Toca Boca — on play for the sake of play, adapting to US business culture, and the challenges of selling kids’ apps to adults.

Kris Piotrowski

Co-Founder of Capybara Games — on being stuck in The Swamp, how music informs his design process, and what video games can teach us about empathy.

Dave Pell

Writer, Blogger, Investor — on the newsworthiness of news, living a dual life as a writer and investor, and why email was and always will be the killer app.


Thoughts — Food for thought by Mills Baker and Sabrina Majeed

A Day In The Life Of — Spend a day with Tobias Bæck and Kim Wouters.

May I AskDan Grover answers questions about his life as an app designer in China.

Inbox ProPeter Cooper is a writer, programmer, and publisher. He makes a living sending emails.

Toying with the Future — Roboticist Ian Bernstein tells the story of his company, building mobile-controlled robot toys for kids.

One Question — We asked Sahil Lavingia, Tara Reed, Ben Ubois and Murat Mutlu how to determine the best time to take a side project full time.

The Web: How I See ItRaam Dev is a writer, thinker, and programmer. He shares with us his view of the state of the web.

Printing Better Health Care — Samiya Parvez, co-founder of Andiamo, shows us how to turn the darkest moments of our lives into a force for good.

Rules of Business — Guiding principles for doing business, by Pip Jamieson.

Gear Guide — Accessories for the modern web worker, by Shawn Blanc

Ghost StoriesJohn O’Nolan tells us about the making of non-profit blogging platform Ghost.

The Life of an App BoyWilliam Wilkinson successfully sells apps on the App Store, and finds it all pretty weird and wonderful.

WorkspaceYOOtheme, Essence, Connectivity LA , Chartboost, Appboy

Agency Truths — Tim Malbon shares insights and guiding principles of his agency Made by Many.

A Forgotten FutureRyan Norbauer reminisces about the 'old web' and what we lost.

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Making good design isn’t about being the best or loudest in the room, it’s about provoking and listening and adapting, and then listening some more.

While studying art, Mark Hurrell discovered that the internet offered a much more effective canvas for his ideas. After a short stint in the agency world, the London-based designer found his challenge in the relaunch of one of the world’s most respected news sites, BBC News. More recently, Mark and his team have garnered several design awards for rethinking the ways we interact with our governments online. GOV.UK represents a step in a new direction, providing essential government services and information in the most accessible way possible. It also encapsulates Mark’s understanding of good design: providing effective solutions, without big bangs or big dramas.

I see a future where democratising access to financial services unlocks potential in people that we can’t even imagine today.

As cryptocurrencies struggle to find wider acceptance, Joyce Kim hopes to inspire our belief in the digital wallet. As executive director of Stellar — which she calls “a giant Google Translate for money” — she seeks to expand financial access and literacy by ridding the banking world of its deep-seated inefficiencies. To reach this ambitious goal, the former lawyer is moving beyond the startup bubble of Silicon Valley and setting her sights on empowering the unbanked poor of the developing world.

We’re consuming all of this design fodder but we’re rarely asking the why of it. We pick it up and learn how to ape it and write tutorials on how to do that, but we don’t really, truly examine it.

Khoi Vinh’s reputation precedes him. Well-known for his former role as design director for The New York Times Online, Khoi is a prominent figure in the design sphere. But he candidly admits that his professional life is not the textbook version of a success story: after his startup flatlined and his ‘acqui-hire’ by Etsy led to disappointment, the father of three has found new balance juggling a range of creative endeavours. With his multi-faceted experience, Khoi paints a realistic picture of what life is like as a maturing designer in an industry full of young hustlers.

No one is saying that we should stop playing outside or having physical toys. It isn’t a binary matter, and it shouldn’t be treated as one either.

Kids deserve to be kids. This mission is at the heart of Toca Boca, a company Björn Jeffery helped found. With a growing range of lovingly illustrated mobile games for kids, the app maker proposes a digital equivalent to the improvised and imaginative play of the real world. And with success: the small San Francisco-based company has won numerous awards and consistently shows up in the App Store’s best-seller list. Yet Björn is regularly reminded that his Scandinavian upbringing and attitude towards work is not always compatible with the stereotype of a successful American CEO.

Running an independent game studio is a bit like dancing on a knife’s edge. It’s about as exciting as it is terrifying.

Anyone who loves to get lost in the wonderful worlds of sci-fi and roleplay dreams of making their own video games. Kris Piotrowski lives that dream. As co-founder of Capybara Games, or ‘Capy’, the Torontonian runs a studio of 23 artists and developers who create award-winning games for all major platforms. But there is nothing magical about the process: making video games is hard work, and like most creative undertakings, it inevitably comes with its ups and downs. According to Kris, the uncertainty of the industry’s future means the dream could come to an abrupt end.

If we’re going to keep the rest of the Bay Area and beyond from hating our guts, we need to constantly be mindful of how lucky we are to be in this place at this time.

Dave Pell loves news. He begins his day by launching an improbable number of browser tabs so he can spend hours dissecting the entertaining, captivating, and often cruel world of media to compile the latest issue of NextDraft. With tens of thousands of loyal readers, his newsletter and mobile app deliver a daily digest of hand-picked news that he believes is worth your time. On the side, he invests in tech startups that he believes are worth his.

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