Product Design with Christine Lee of Evernote

Christine Lee.

by The Adobe Blog team

posted on 06-07-2018

Product designer Christine Lee is always pushing to redefine the bounds of what’s possible, and if you ask her about it she’ll tell you that those possibilities are what excite her the most. “There are new products and platforms that are popping up every day, which means the way in which we consume content and experiences is also shifting daily,” she says. “A quick skim of the latest news consistently highlights a new development on the VR/AR/ML/AI/insert your favorite two-letter acronym here-front, and it’s especially exciting to see the way we create and engage in experiences move from the flat 2D world into 3D, 4D, or even invisible interfaces.”

Back from her year of traveling around the world, Christine took the time to talk with us about product design, her work at Evernote, and her love of travel that inspired the international beer and drinking etiquette concept Globehopper. Christine leads us through her development process — from sketches to final prototype — in her three-part series for AdobeLive. You can follow along via the replays here.

How did you get interested in product design, and how did you get your start?

Like many others, my path to product design was a nonlinear one. I majored in architecture during college, started my career in customer success, and eventually ended up in product design.

My interest in product design stemmed from my experience working in customer success. Being in the trenches every day with our users helped me learn about their business objectives, pain points, and motivations. They were not shy about sharing their candid thoughts, and I relayed this feedback between them and our product and engineering teams. Through this role, I learned to champion for our users’ needs and ensured their voices were heard and reflected in the product. Eventually, I wanted to take-on a more active role in addressing their pain points, so that’s how I made the jump into product design. I’m grateful to have had supportive managers and teammates who ensured the transition was as smooth as possible, and offered lots of guidance to get me up to speed in this new domain.

Tell us about your current role at Evernote.

I am currently a product designer for the web platform at Evernote and work with an inspiring team of designers, researchers, engineers, and product managers. Prior to joining Evernote, I was seeking out opportunities to work with a larger design team, learn from experienced designers, and work on a product at scale. Evernote fit the bill on all fronts, and I’m glad to have the chance to work with such a talented team.

It’s a unique time to be a designer at Evernote because there are a lot of places where you can make a large impact. Everyone has the agency to influence change where they see fit, whether that’s in the product, internal processes, team culture, or all of the above. We’re working on some exciting projects and are actively growing out the team, so feel free to reach out if you’re interested in learning more.

What is the most challenging aspect of the work you do?

Striking the right balance tends to be the most challenging, yet the most rewarding aspect of what I do. Whether it’s weighing the combination between user needs and business goals in a design brief or making tradeoffs on the design vision to compensate for technical constraints, this give-and-take between competing objectives is what keeps me on my toes.

Gathering people from different perspectives and drawing from their collective experiences and expertise is what helps me navigate this challenge. Working cross-functionally and incorporating different ways of thinking is what makes the work rewarding because there’s no greater feeling than knowing that we produced this result as a team.

Image source: Christine Lee.

What is the origin of Globehopper?

Globehopper is a website that allows people to learn about the most popular beers and local drinking etiquette for each country. The initial idea was born out of an intersection of my top-three interests: food, travel, and design. It’s a tool that I wish I had while traveling around the world last year, and I’m glad to see other people resonated with the project as well.

What considerations are important when creating a community-based experience?

When it comes to creating community-based experiences, it’s important to consider what the impetus for wanting to engage and contribute to the community looks like. For example, I thought about what would make someone want to add to this community and how they might want to interact with the product. Some people might want to casually browse the information available, others might want to engage anonymously by quickly rating beers they’ve tried, and those who want to share more might be more willing to fill out a quick form to share their local drinking tips and etiquette. The best way to see how people might use the product is to go out and talk to people — ask them for their candid feedback, and you’re bound to learn something interesting you can use to improve the experience.

Your three-part tutorial series for Adobe Live walks folks through the Globehopper development process — from definition to final design and prototyping. What was that experience like?

To be completely honest, I was a little nervous going into it since it was my first time designing live in front of an international audience. But that initial apprehension quickly wore off, as the entire AdobeLive team and everyone who tuned in were incredibly warm and supportive. Special thanks to Talin and Michael for being engaging hosts and maintaining an upbeat and entertaining atmosphere, and a huge thank you to everyone who tuned in.

My favorite part of this whole experience was being able to collaborate and interact with the community. I loved being able to see all the projects that people created using XD, and was especially grateful for all the clever names and tips on local drinking customs people shared. It was so much fun being able to work together with people from around the world in real time on a global project.

Image source: Christine Lee.

What advice would you give someone getting started in product design?

Stay curious, and never stop asking why. This inquisitive mindset will help you get to the bottom of why people and products operate the way they do, and will enable you to analyze why certain decisions were made.

When I talk to people who are earlier in their product design journey, they are usually concerned with the visual elements and making sure things look right. This isn’t a bad place to start, but it’s equally important that you understand the why behind the what. There might be a reason (good or bad) as to why the navigation is laid out in a certain manner or why there’s a funky interaction when you press that button. Understanding the rationale behind design decisions and being able to communicate what makes a design good or bad is just as important as making sure things look OK.

Do you have any resources would you recommend?

It is a great time to be a designer because there are so many amazing resources floating out there on the internet. Here are some of my favorites:

_– _“Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug (http://a.co/3X3w6hj): a quick read and a great primer to everything you need to know about usability.

_– _“Design Details” (https://spec.fm/podcasts/design-details): a fun and easy podcast to listen to that features a new designer every week and digs into their background and work.

UX Design Weekly by Kenny Chen (http://uxdesignweekly.com/): a weekly newsletter of curated articles, portfolios, and other goodies that gives you a quick pulse on what’s happening in the industry.

@badbad_ux (https://www.instagram.com/badbad_ux/): an Instagram account that documents design gone wrong because a little giggle in the middle of the workday never hurt anybody.

To learn more about Christine Lee, check out her website. Want UX insights sent straight to your inbox? Sign up for Adobe’s experience design newsletter.

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Creative Cloud