BitTorrent is made up of inventors, scientists, designers; makers and breakers of technology. The BitTorrent Interview is an introduction to the people of peer-to-peer: notes from the edge of distributed technology, and a few words from the team we’re lucky enough to call our own. In this week’s edition: sleeping and breathing design with Rebecca Chu.
Meet Rebecca Chu, Senior Visual Designer at BitTorrent
Q. Rebecca, you were our first. (UX Visual Designer, ever.) What does visual design mean at a tech company?
My role as a visual designer is to bring feeling to technology. My job is to reach people. My job is to help build connections. Technology is human. When people think of BitTorrent, they think it’s an engineering-centric (or engineering-only) company. But we value design. We want to build things that are technically impressive, yes, but also actually beautiful: the kind of products that people love.
I am responsible for delivering products that blend usability with desirability through color, typography, icons, layout, and visual hierarchy. My goal is to present information, communicate behavior, function, and our brand while collaborating with engineers, product managers and other designers.
Traditionally, design is seen as a service: there’s a problem, and you reach out to designers to solve that problem through design. That designer has to articulate the strategy without being a part of the strategy; after the fact. That’s not true here. Visual designers are involved at a conceptual level. I think every designer wants to have that kind of input.
Rebecca shows us her design work on the BitTorrent client mobile app
Q. The idea of “great design” is big and awesome and abstract. What does it mean?
Heart / Mind. I’ve always believed that design impacts not only the way people think, but how they feel. Great design is thoughtful, elegant, simple, intuitive. It makes people feel good. It makes people smile. For me, smart design is wit: stuff that carries a sense of humor.
Truly great design is a human connection; something that deepens the relationship between a person and a product or brand. Truly great design allows what you make to stand out in a crowd, and away from competitors. And it plays a key role in customer’s perception of quality and value. It’s magical when customers fall in love with what you make.
Q. How did you get into design?
My mom is an amazing seamstress. She made clothes for me when I was young. She helped me develop a love for making things, but I didn’t think of it as a career. When I was in college, all of my friends studied business or computer science. I thought I should do the same, but I ended up trying out a couple of design courses. I fell in love.
The summer after my college graduation, I took a couple night class at CCA and met two amazing teachers, Christopher Simmons and Dora Drimalas. Dora was teaching at AAU’s graphic design graduate program. She spent two months mentoring me while I polished my portfolio to apply for the graduate program. I got in, and the rest is history.
Q. As a designer, what’s your working philosophy?
Be humble, hard-working and have fun with design. Try to work on as many types of products and media as possible. Be eager. Be willing to learn. Train your eyes to see good design. Sleep and breath it—immerse yourself, because good work only comes after time spent doing and time spent exploring. Talk to people, especially the ones who think differently than you. Non-designers are a wealth of design inspiration. The more you try to understand people, the easier it is to have empathy for your users.
And it’s been said a lot, but I deeply believe form follows function. It’s easy to design something attractive and nice and cool. If it doesn’t work or can’t be implemented it’s meaningless.
Members of the UX team
Q. What’s it like working here? How does design work at BitTorrent?
Happy hours and plaid. We’re part of the User Experience team, alongside interaction designers, researchers, and web developers. It’s a big team. We have bi-weekly drinks to get together (Brig, the head of our team, makes us fancy cocktails). Despite being a diverse group, we seem to share an affinity for plaid; Brig in particular. But: it might be more complicated than that. If you think you’re wearing plaid, you might be wrong.