Bridging the Digital With the Physical

This Soapbox has come and gone!

  • Wesley Yun, Director of Design, Lytro

We hope to see you at the next Soapbox. We'll update this page soon with interesting tidbits about the event plus the podcast!

About Wesley Yun

For many people outside the community, design is purely about visuals — the way something looks, the colors used, the typography, etc. But at its core, design is about solving problems. When viewed from this perspective, design transcends mediums and takes on a vital importance. Design becomes greater than just the aesthetics of a product but gets tightly woven into what the product is, its very existence and purpose. This is a space Wesley Yun, Director of Design at Lytro, knows well. For him, it's all about shaping the look and feel of products with the aim of providing the best solutions to the user.

Wesley hopped on his Soapbox to share what he’s learned designing some of the most iconic products in recent memory and how he guides his team to provide the best design solutions possible. He also talked about what it's like to go from designer to a design leader.

grayscale photo of Wesley Yun

Listen to Wesley's Podcast

iTunes RSS

Keep Asking Why

Wesley has enjoyed a prolific career working at some of the top names in mobile and personal tech, but not all projects have come to see the light of day. For Wesley, while disappointing, there is knowledge in these experiences that can be built on and brought to new opportunities.

Wesley shared some of these hits and misses doing work for Motorola and Palm, projects that through the clear lens of hindsight revealed themselves to be riddled with barriers both internal and external. For Wesley though, these were learning experiences, chances to take a good hard look at what has been and more importantly, what could be.

He brought out the example of email and how people are still working to optimize and improve it, but nobody is asking “Do we even need email anymore?” These are the kinds of broad questions Wesley asks because the goal, for him, is to solve problems without being encumbered by what has come before.

Staying Close to Your User

Wesley then shared how designers are becoming distanced from their end users and how dangerous this can be. Wesley shared how he was once asked, “How do we get people to talk on their telephone more?” This question put Wesley at a loss. He named a few things he could do to try and persuade users through design, but in the end he can’t change user behavior. The focus had clearly shifted from solving a user’s problems to solving a company’s problems. In this way, designers are growing disconnected from the needs of their actual end users, he said. Great design, however, is built off of empathy, an intense understanding of the needs, feelings and behaviors of those using your product.

Growing from Designer to Design Leader

For designers to grow in their careers and have influence in organizations, they have to learn how to navigate the bureaucracy and try their best to work within it. As a design leader, Wesley now has more managerial duties than direct creation. His biggest challenge is maintaining the integrity and soul of a product in the face of things like production costs and other factors that have nothing to do with the customers at all. As we’ve talked about on our blog, the shift from contributor to manager can have a few bumps, but Wesley elaborated on some of the tactics he has found helpful in guiding his teams. He asks his teams:

This is the problem that you're trying to solve. Does this solution that you're presenting solve that problem?

Wesley has found that being a design leader involves not doing the work for people, but guiding them, reframing problems, and encouraging their best ideas. Designers crave flexibility and freedom, but design leaders must balance that with a bigger understanding of the problem they are trying to solve to get the best results from their team.

Remember the Fundamental Purpose

The Lytro camera Wesley brought was truly impressive, a powerful tool with a whole wealth of features not found on any other device. One of the most impressive features of the camera is its ability to refocus at will by simply touching the area you’d like to bring into focus. Focus was the concluding theme for the event. For Wesley, new technologies and features pose a potential danger, the hazard of losing sight of the fundamental purpose of the product. He constantly asks his team “... It’s technically possible but should we do it?”

Many designers try to surprise and delight, which are no doubt important, but Wesley cautioned against making that your main aim. For him, the main purpose, or focus, of the camera was to capture moments and everything else came second.

Our discussion with Wesley ended with an audience question and answer sessions. We want to thank Wesley and for coming down and sharing his insights with ZURB and the ZURBsoapbox audience.

Don't Miss Out on Our Next Soapbox


Ryan: How's everyone doing today?

Audience: Good.

Ryan: Awesome. Well, glad to have you here for our December Soapbox. I'm really happy to have Wesley Yun of Lytro come by. We'll get going and have a good talk. Thanks for coming by.

Wesley: Thanks for having me. Thanks for making it out in the…

Ryan: In the middle of stormageddon, right?

Wesley: Yeah.

Ryan: We all made it during stormageddon, so we're all here. I'm just going to adjust this seat so I'm facing you more as opposed to... sorry, we're going to have a conversation here.

Wesley: I'll get closer.

Ryan: Yeah, co-mingle. I kind of just want to dive right into it because you've worked on a lot of interactions, OS systems, for a lot of physical hardware; some of them top secret. But can you just share some of what you're doing at Motorola?

Wesley: Sure.

Ryan: Is it no longer top secret?

Wesley: Well, no. All of that secret is now out in the world. It's interesting because everything that you do keeps moving with you. You don't leave all of that thinking at the last job and so this has always been my career where... you know, I used to work at a company called Helio. I used to work a guy named Matias Duarte and then I brought in Daniel Shiplacoff and I brought in Nathan, and we all talked about Oss for a long time because we were trying to create a new operating system for them. He'd been thinking about a danger, where he made the sidekick and he came over and he started teaching us about it, and then we all lifted and we went to like Palm and we made the WebOS. You know that thinking sort of picked up and then he went to Android and now he's running Android. That thinking sort of continues forward, it just doesn't stop.

The thing that I wanted to do at Motorola, which is super top secret; irrelevant now because Motorola is whatever it is. But the idea was that Sanjay Jha, who was the then CEO of the company, had bet the entire farm on Android. Ironically this is always one of those things in the valley that this always happens where Palm the WebOS would've been, I think, far more successful if Verizon had actually gone through with our deal. We were going to be the first to introduce Spotify into the US but because of legal reasons it didn't happen. They were going to bet really hard on WebOS but then Motorola decided that they're going to bet hard on Android, and so Verizon decided they're going to start this entire Droid series and they went really big on Motorola and pulled out of WebOS. So it's like one of those things where you're like, "Oh, my God," you know these weird fates that move us around.

I went to Motorola. Sanjay Jha disliked Android, or no CEO likes to be beholden to a secondary company, like another company for its future. Android at the time is completely like... they won't tell you anything about what they're going to do next. It's their prerogative, they don't have to. But now, you're betting the entire future of your company on this operating system that you have no say into. This makes every CEO nervous.

One of the things that he asked me to come do after I went to RIM and I worked on Playbook and was creating their next operating system, which came out in the Playbook OS, I went to Motorola to create a new operating system for them. There are moments in a designer's life where you realize, "Oh, this is death march. This is never going to see the light of day, clearly. But can we take this time to rethink operating systems from a fundamentally different level?"

One of the things that we really were interested in thinking about was operating systems came up through thinking about file systems, structures, these kinds of things. It's never really thought about people like, "Could we create the first operating system that sort of drops from HCI, like human to human interaction instead of human to computer interaction?" What does that mean? It was five years ago, I guess, or four years ago.

We're at this point where what does it mean to have email? What does it mean to have messaging? What does it mean to have any of these things? It's just two people trying to communicate. Can the operating system abstract the transport so that we thread information between us in a sort of reasonable coherent way so I can send you a video and you can see it and you can respond to me in a text and I can respond to you in an email? And it all sort of threads as a single conversation. Now this turned out a bridge too far. People were like, "What?"

And it's still too far; people are still working on optimizing email which I think is useful and helpful like great. But nobody is thinking, "Do we even need email anymore?" You know, like, "What is that? Why are we emailing people?" This is a standard or a thing that we adhered to since, I don't know, since I was in college in the early '90s.

Ryan: Me, too.

Wesley: And it still hasn't changed. It still hasn't changed, right? We took this as an opportunity knowing that this will probably never see the light of day, to rethink operating systems fundamentally from the human perspective rather than a computer perspective.

Ryan: And that leads into a question that I did want to ask. You had once said that user experience is as broad or as limited as you want to be.

Wesley: Did you say that? Did I say that?

Ryan: It's on the internet.

Wesley: Geez. Wow.

Ryan: The internet is an amazing resource. I think we should all do something with it.

Wesley: What did I possibly mean by that?

Ryan: But what is user experience when it does come to that physical product and operating system? Because you're talking about trying to revolutionize it, think about it in terms of human interactions. How do those two things actually meld together?

Wesley: Well, they haven't. I mean hardware is hard for an entirely different set of reasons than why software is hard. We were talking about this earlier. There are very few companies who have matched this perfect trifecta. Some have figured out hardware and software, but very few figured out hardware, software and server, which I think is where everything has to move forward to, and nobody has really done a very good job of this. Maybe Apple, right? Everybody always points to Apple, and that's great. But their services sometimes suck. Like I was on .mac and I transitioned to iCloud or .me. All that stuff was bonkers, like that was crazy bad. But they've learned and they've evolved that over time.

Hardware is hard for a specific set of reasons and that has nothing to do with software and no one does this perfectly, right? I don't know what the question was again. So what is the right amount of UX? Well, whatever, like you really have to start with what the people want to do with that tool, with that device and try to think about it backwards. The other thing that I'd like to do, and when thinking about future UX is just imagine that what we're doing right now is totally stupid. Think about pagers or something like this where you're like, "What? You had..." You get a page, you pull the car off the freeway, found a payphone, put money in a payphone and then you had to talk into this dirty handset and hopefully through static you can hear what the person is saying. That's crazy. I tried to explain that to my daughter and it's like, "Why? Why would you do that?"

Ryan: What archaic world did you come from?

Wesley: Exactly. Were they dinosaurs? What was going on? But it's difficult because we get so caught in the world that we live in now, we can't imagine not doing this, right? We can't imagine not playing games on this. We can't imagine what a world looks like when all these things go away which always does. It always changes.

Ryan: But the one landline in the kitchen is my horror story for all of you, if you remember those days.

Wesley: Right. If you tried to talk to your girlfriend, you know? Yeah. I know, exactly, or there were these tricks that... I was listening to this podcast called Serial [SP], and I realized there was this trick that people used to do which is you would signal to whoever is calling you that you were going to call them at a certain time, and because you didn't want the landline to ring through the entire house, you call the service weather or time, and then the person would get the call waiting and you can switch over, and so you could talk to your girlfriend without your family... like crazy stuff like that where you're like, "What are you talking..." That was high-tech at the time, yeah, like call waiting was high-tech. That didn't exist before, right?

The fundamental thing about that was that two people wanted to talk. That's just at the very fundamental level, people just wanted to talk and hear each other's voice and it was about connecting people. We get abstracted with all this technology because we forget and lose touch and we always find new ways in which that happens, but to better or worse, that either exaggerates distance or brings us closer.

Ryan: Right. I think it goes back to something we were talking about before interview a little bit about how do we get people to call people more.

Wesley: Yeah.

Ryan: Do you mind telling that story a little bit?

Wesley: Not at all. So I was working at a company called RIM, BlackBerry, and I remember the CEO Mike Lazaridis, during my interview with him, he asked me a very simple question which was, "How do we get people to talk more on their telephones?" I was like, "I don't know." My God, I can't change human behavior. That's not something I can do as a designer. I can make the bigger button so people accidentally call each other. I can increase butt dialing somehow. I can't actually physically make people talk more. I remember thinking about that because for him, and we're talking about this a little bit, which is that sometimes companies don't really think about their customers, or we as a customer don't think about companies and who their actual customers are.

For him, his actual customers were like carriers or IT managers, all these people who are not the persons directly making that call. But for them, these concerns… he was very big on this concept of data packets, shrinking data packets because we're choking bandwidth and everything. That's not a problem people have. That's a problem carriers have. He's always trying to solve these problems for carriers or IT managers to maintain security, and they thought that the business was impenetrable. They thought because iPhone was such an open system, open according to them, that they were never going to get traction in IT. But then guess what? People actually started bringing their iPhones and forcing their IT guys to make sure that their iPhones worked with whatever system because they got tired of carrying two phones.

But for them the customer was not the customer, the customer was the channel. This is almost every corporation, right? The customers are rarely the customer. Nokia is a great example. They have some of the most talented designers I've ever, ever talked to. They do so much research, they have so much data about problems in the third world and how communication works for people in villages in Southeast Asia or some place this, and they'll sit in these huts with these folks who talk about how they use this transformative technology to change their lives, but that's not who they sell to. They sell to Orange, they sell to Verizon, and there's a huge disconnect between the company and the carrier. The designers are always at the behest of the company to deliver to the customer which is the carrier.

Ryan: Right. It's not the end user.

Wesley: It's not the end user.

Ryan: It's this barrier between the end user and the actual designer.

Wesley: Right.

Ryan: That brings up a question I have for later on, but I want to bring it up now is that a lot of these companies are, especially now, snatching up designers and making them all in-house, these larger corporations. How does a designer even begin to navigate that bureaucracy, that level of all these things that are between them and their actual customer, the real customer?

Wesley: Yeah, I know. This is slow, right? But all change is slow, which is that I feel IDO did an amazing job of convincing businesses that good design is good business, and this was in the, I guess, '90s or '80s, and they've done such a good job. Someone like Samsung, was one of the biggest clients for IDO when they first came to the States. But they've done such a good job now, Samsung has 2000 designers internally. They're one of the largest design organizations on the globe.

Ryan: I wouldn't have thought of that.

Wesley: Exactly. Because why? Why wouldn't you think of that?

Ryan: Because I think of Samsung as a big bureaucracy.

Wesley: Exactly. They basically placed all of these designers and they haven't tapped into the potential of what that means, right?

Ryan: Right.

Wesley: Here are all these people toiling under the same bureaucratic system that is really geared towards manufacturing and optimizing manufacturing. They've got sales down, they've got manufacturing down, they don't have software and experience down just yet. But all those people, they don't go away, they just keep getting promoted and promoted and promoted until they are in a position to make better decisions. We talked about this. Design is one of those rare things where we think of it as a meritocracy, and it's just not, it's not true. We'd like to believe that we make beautiful objects and that people will celebrate it immediately, recognizing the genius of our beautiful object but it's not true.

Objects get sort of molded and shift based on different priorities in meetings that keep pushing the product into doing really different bad things. I've sat enough in all of those meetings where I know it sounds really rational, it sounds incredibly reasonable, depending on whose priority you're talking about. Is it the business, is it the workflow? All those decisions that happen in those rooms, these aren't stupid people. They're all very thinking, logical people who make really good decisions out of context, and the context is, "Who the hell is going to use this thing at the end?"

If you're talking about channel sales, shoving a television into a refrigerator makes total sense because the way that channel sales work is people go to Best Buy and they look at all these features and they go, "It's got 10 things and a TV screen. This one doesn't even have a TV screen and the price is about the same. I'll take the one with the TV screen." That's how people make decisions, and then of course that gets back to the company, and then of course, these decisions get made, and you're like, "What the hell? What am I putting a TV into a refrigerator? That's crazy talk." But it makes sense in that meeting. All of these decisions, they're really rational. I can't even remember the question now.

Ryan: it was about navigating that bureaucracy and trying to work within it.

Wesley: To me, design, moving forward is really, as a director, it's not about designing anymore. I have incredibly talented people who will out-design me every single day. What I've gotten really good at is navigating the bureaucracy and helping in making sure that I'm a careful steward and maintaining the integrity of their idea and the vision, moving it forward and absorbing the right feedback and making sure that we maintain the soul of this product. Because the integrity of products gets ripped apart when you start talking about BOM costs, when you start talking about all these other things that have nothing to do with the customer.

Ryan: Right. That's a good segue you're talking a little bit about design management. I kind of wanted to hit on it because it was something that we talked about previous, and I think we had a very interesting conversation which I'd like to share with the audience about that. You're the Director of Design at Lytro and you've been Creative Director or Design Director at Motorola and all that other stuff. I know you brought the camera, too.

Wesley: Oh, yeah.

Ryan: So you might as well... the Lytro camera. He's got props. He came with props.

Wesley: Shame with self-promotion. So that's the camera. I didn't do anything with it. I had nothing to do with it.

Woman: Does it come with a TV screen?

Wesley: It does, in the back. It does.

Ryan: You can catch up on Downtown Abbey.

Wesley: Yeah, exactly. Well, this is interesting. This is running Android, as everything is.

Ryan: But we were talking about transitioning from being the designer who is implementing and doing the design work and just doing all that, and then becoming the design leader, and that there's almost like a mental shift. Can you describe the process for you? Because you had said something interesting in terms of... it's like it could be detrimental for you to actually go in and do the design work yourself.

Wesley: Yeah, this is one of those things as our... I feel like our profession is constantly evolving and even more rapidly now. Thank goodness a lot of us don't have to answer these questions like, "Oh, can you just make me that icon or draw me that button?" But that has been replaced with, "Can you make me that wire? Can you draw me that wireframe? It'll take you five minutes, right?" It keeps revolving. I constantly have managers, not my current... my current boss really is understanding and respectful because I think he really wants to be. But a lot of times I've gotten managers, even design managers, who don't understand how much time and energy is required to managing a team, right? And so they always say, "Well, yeah, your team doesn't have time for that. Can you just draw that icon or can you draw this thing?"

My tendency from the past would be to say yes, right? Because so much of my self-worth or value or how I've measured myself in terms of advancing myself was always measured by my ability to be an individual contributor. And so making and crafting this thing is sort of how I understood how I contribute back to the group. But I find it detrimental at this point in my state and stage in my career where people management is not a time-efficient endeavor, right? People management is an incredibly taxing thing. My tendency as an individual contributor is to put on my headphones, isolate myself, stop talking to everybody. If anybody disrupts me, it takes me like 20 minutes to reset.

It could just be a question like, "Hey, what's that?" "Oh, this? This is a water bottle. Okay?" And put my headphone back on, and it could as innocuous as that, like, "Where is that file?" Or, "Have you seen Dave?" Whatever it is, that question, it resets me and then it takes me like... we're talking about, like having to go back three pages to remember where you were in that flow, and you don't want that as a design leader. You want to be disruptable, you want to help people, you want to go to those meetings, you want to represent the team, you want to clear the brush from the path of the people who are trying to do their best work.

Also, people need direction, and not like being told what to do; it's very different. I don't ever tell my designers what to do. I always try to reframe the problem and help them understand, "This is the problem that you're trying to solve. Does this solution that you're presenting solve that problem?" And then we can walk through it and work it out. The beauty of that is that they've always provided solutions that I could never have thought of. A lot of our directors think that you want your designers to achieve the look that you have in your head, or get to the solution that you have in your head, and this is always not a good idea. It's as good as your idea, right? It's only as good as your idea.

So whenever I help frame the problem and I give my designers the freedom and the luxury to go explore and understand these things and then come to a solution, it's always better. It's always better because I only hire talented people also.

Ryan: Of course.

Wesley: But talented people want to work with me because I allow them the flexibility and freedom to actually perfect their craft, understand that there is a bigger problem that we're solving, giving that context, giving them the freedom and the latitude to actually do some of their best work, that is a lot of work. I make it look easy because I look so relaxed but it's really so much work.

Ryan: It goes back to that player-coach analogy you were using earlier, right?

Wesley: Yeah, I can't say that it doesn't work always but I know Google has this player-coach model. I know enough designers at Google who are completely lost. They're like wandering in the wilderness because their managers are so fixated on getting the solution and they don't want to share. Because it is, it's really a lot of work to actually communicate to someone that you're working with. In order for me to explain to you the context, the business model, the engineer partner, the constraints, the timeline, all the steps. It's faster for me to just do it. It's just easier. But it doesn't do them a service of letting them understand the problem and so it would always be bottlenecked by me.

So this player-coach model is good if you're in a small enough organization that that's almost necessary, but once you start to scale, that model doesn't scale, right? Every second that you take away from your team to do your own contribution, I think, magnifies depending on how many people that you have.

Ryan: For yourself, how do you let go of that innate need to create and to implement? Because I know I have this problem as well. I'm like, "I want to do that thing because I want to because it fascinates me."

Wesley: Yeah, I know, it's difficult. You have to work on your own stuff. Like I draw all the time, I work on my own things, but that also takes away from my family time. There isn't like an infinite amount of energy resources, brain space. There is a finite amount and how we choose to dedicate to what, that's your life. If you choose to dedicate it to helping your team, you're going to have an awesome team. If you choose to dedicate to solving your problem that's what you're going to have. If you choose to dedicate to your family and spending time with them, guess what? Wherever you spend that time is where you're going to see the most benefit.

Ryan: I want to segue back because I know we got a little off track with the design, but I thought that was a very fascinating thing that we were talking about and I want to share that with the group. But I do want to come back to just a little bit because it is revolutionizing the photographic industry in a fashion. How are you also doing that with... you have this physical camera and you have the software, how are you reconciling those two things for someone that is a photographer?

Wesley: Yeah, I know. I think of this camera as an interesting artifact. I'm always going through this exercise of, "What are we creating at Lytro? What is it?" The physical device is the clearest manifestation of what the product is. But really, there are very few companies that are able to control the device for capture, the software for edit, and the portal for display, right? What does that mean? What does that mean for the file? Canon is really good. Nikon is really good at making the device for capture. Adobe is very good at making the tools to edit. Flickr, 500 pics. Whatever. They're really good at displaying, and that's their core competency. And I'm trying to bring that onto one team with four designers and that is really one of the biggest challenges, is what do you focus on?

To me, the format is probably the most interesting thing. And the things that you can potentially do with the format because we own that entire pipeline, we haven't done yet. I've only been there nine months. It's also constant negotiation of what is technically possible. And then the other side of my brain which is like, "Should we do it? Sure, it's technically possible but should we do it?" There's always this conversation that's happening in my brain.

I'm still trying to figure out what this is. But what I know about this device is that it's difficult to use at the moment, and I think it's intentionally difficult to use, right? We give you a high degree of ability to manipulate. I'd like to sort of not take that away exactly, but make that easier but also tap into this other segment. On principle, I think there's something interesting that happened with the advent of the iPhone, which is that people who were not photographers take millions of photos, right? So how can you say that you're not a photographer?

Ryan: And poorly if you're me.

Wesley: No, but I mean, there are tools like Instagram that helps you make your stuff look reasonably good. When I was in sixth grade, I was starting to learn to draw. There's a disconnect between what I could draw and what I saw and wanted to draw. That requires some work, right? There's a pivot point where people are discouraged because they don't get trained on how to draw, and then there are some who really get into it and then they learn how to draw better. I feel that inflection point happens in photography as well when there was a cost associated with it, when there was an analog equivalency where you had to pay for film, pay for an expensive camera, process the film; there was a physical artifact.

Once that went away, people felt good to take lots of photos, and then with the advent of Instagram, people feel good about the photos that they took, right? It feels like whatever result that they had in their mind, like the skies look bluer, the grass looks greener, your face looks less blemished. All these things that professional photographers are doing and using their tools to simulate, now you can do it in your own hand. That to me is the way that imaging, moving forward, has to... we have to support the photographers who want the fidelity of controls. But we also have to support people who are really into capturing images, creating memories, and moments.

To me, my job as a designer of this product is to make it fun and delightful but also, the more important is, to make sure that you capture that moment. We talk about this is a "can't fail" moment. To me, right now, the technology is a bit of a gimmick, like the touch to refocus, most photographers say, " I don't really need that. I use focus to tell my story. Why would I give that control to the user?" Valid. Totally valid. But to me, the moment you see the images that are produced by this camera, you realize that it's far more immersive, it's far more engaging. To me, the moment that this stops being a novelty is when you can win a Pulitzer Prize, like you go to a war-torn situation. The whole point of a Pulitzer would be to transport you out of your complacency and into a situation that you can imagine, right? And then to place you there to understand the suffering or the humility or whatever it is to transport you and put you in a place that is uncomfortable for you.

I think, strangely, this technology is really great for that — putting you in a place that's making you feel immersed in the situation. It feels alive. It feels more tangible and therefore, hopefully, more relevant. The difference between a war photographer taking this camera versus their Canon or Nikon is dependability. There's a moment where you cannot fail that photographer. You can't be like, "Hey, can you do redo that execution again? Because my camera froze and I really need you to electrocute that guy."

Ryan: Right.

Wesley: Like weddings, whatever it is. There are moments that you have to capture.

Ryan: There's level of reliability that it has to have.

Wesley: Right. So we talk about this as the moment. This is a serious tool that we feel confident that this camera will not fail you. It can't fail, and so that, to me, is design more than delight for buttons. There are other places for delight and whimsy and fun.

Ryan: Sure.

Wesley: I'm not saying camera should be devoid of fun, but don't get in the way.

Ryan: There's a fundamental purpose that you have to achieve and adhere to.

Wesley: Thank you for articulating that. I could just rumble in five more minutes.

Ryan: Oh, that's what I'm here for. I do appreciate you answering my questions. I want to throw it out to the audience. We have a few minutes left here so we can ask a few questions from anyone out in the audience. I'd like to toss it out there. Yes.

Man: Yeah, a really good talk.

Wesley: Thanks.

Man: Is there a primary demographic or do you see it broader than that for this particular camera?

Wesley: For this particular camera, we would like it to be obviously broader. As it is now, it is a tool. It's difficult to help people imagine why they need this tool because the tools that they have currently are good enough, right? There isn't a thing yet where people are like, "Oh, I've got to have that." But eventually we hope to reach ubiquity where this is not even an issue. If photographers have struggled forever of maintaining their computer in their head of exposure and bracketing and focus and all of these things, I think we should take the computer out of the person's head and put it into the computer and make the computer do all of the work so you can focus on composition, storytelling, all these things. All those technical barriers should recede over time.

Unfortunately, photographers are very, very into the technical ability. They really love the minutiae of... and they think of the technical barrier as almost a feature, like to become "part of my craft", to become the sort of elite group. Technical mastery is part of photography. To me, that makes total sense. We're talking about Luddites. I mean, I'm highly empathetic to Luddites. They were crafts people of their generation who were making beautiful woven things that all of a sudden got obliterated by technology that automated all of the stuff, and so the quality diminished, and all of these things fell apart. To me, as a craftsperson, I am highly empathetic. I know that the term Luddite is very derisive or pejorative but I think about their struggle and I think I'm very sympathetic to photographers who want all the fidelity of controls. I'm also cognizant of the fact that every year moving forward we will produce more images that year than there has been in the history of all photography, right?

And so what does mean for photography moving forward? Well it means capturing with your data and then being able to manipulate that data to tell a story better. I would love for the camera to be in service of that rather than sort of giving... while all the while giving photographers the comfort and the controls that they need to feel like they're getting the exact shot that they want.

Man: You talked about this being difficult to use for an amateur?

Wesley: Yes.

Man: Is there some sort of point-and-shoot mode that you can just flip a switch and give it to your kid?

Wesley: I would love for that to happen. I can't talk about future products, but on principle, like the principle of what you're saying is totally reasonable to me. Did I say too much? I don't know.

Man: [inaudible 00:35:21]

Wesley: Yeah, exactly. Launching simple kid phone or kid camera.

Man: Actually that's the reason why I would buy this camera is because if I take my Nikon or my Canon I can't hand it to my kid. I have to buy [inaudible 00:35:36]

Wesley: Yeah.

Man: Besides of the fact that [inaudible 00:35:39]. There's a level of simplicity. I can give it to my mom and say, "Hey, shoot this." It's my kid's birthday. I have to go do this. I can't [inaudible 00:35:49] if I have the camera all the time.

Wesley: Totally. Of course, we should do that, right? It's always just a question of how to set the right priorities for automatic. My barrier is 95% of the times you get the shot that you want, like in low-light situations, in sporting events where people are moving very quickly, or the kids running around in the living room and it's fairly dark like, "Can you get that shot without a flash?" I don't know, probably not. So what is that barrier? Of course we should be able to do that, but what are the toggles that we move to make sure that 95% of the times you're pretty stoked? But, yeah, that should happen.

Man: You were talking about the amateur users... their vision because they lack the technical ability, know-how to unite those technical abilities to produce high-quality images [inaudible 00:36:50] not too demanding of what they have. You could take one of those $5 disposable cameras from the ‘90s and take a shot underwater which [inaudible 00:37:00] vacation family would still be happy with whatever.

Wesley: Totally. This is always how it goes where we have to... this is where it starts to get really tricky because manufacturing is really, really hard, right? And so we can't just make ten products. We have to focus on one product. And then what is that market that it serves? The very first camera that we put out was… this is what they call the butter stick. It looks like a square or a rectangle and that was dead simple. The traction was pretty good but we thought, "Here's a different market. We'll target this market and it's got a better sensor, and it's got zoom, and it's got all these things that we didn't have before." Now people are going the other way. We're like, "Great. We got all that stuff. We'd like it to be simple again."

But in the same way like initially when you bought your iPad, it was just for you to do whatever stuff. Then all of a sudden it gets handed down to your kids, and all of a sudden your kids are... every kid I know has an iPad. But the idea of buying your kid initially an $800 tablet is like crazy. This always happens. The other thing about this camera is that it's all software, and so you can get a new camera almost every update. We just put in a new feature where... I think I can talk about this here. People love taking photographs with F1, at F1 because you get a very slim slice of focus and then everything is this beautiful Bokeh. This drives art directors crazy because they want the front of the package through the back of the package in focus and everything else in that sort of nice blur.

Now, here's a tool, because it's capturing larger swats of data. I think about it as bracketing focus as well as exposure and all those different things. You can say, "I want your face to this product totally in focus at F16 focus and then I want everything else to be completely blurred." We have now a tool that will let you do that. That's kind of crazy, like physically impossible but because it's just data being redrawn to suit whatever your purpose is. Now, if you can imagine the infinite possibilities of that, like replacing backgrounds or whatever it is, like dropping something into the scene, like things that would take teams of special effects folks weeks to do, you can just do instantaneously. Of course, you'd want that. Why wouldn't you want that? That's obvious that you'd want that. But we have to pick and choose because we're only a team of 120 people and what we choose to put into the product will shape whether or not people will buy it.

Ryan: Cool. We have time for one more question. I know you had your handouts.

Woman: I totally appreciate you bringing up the conversation about making the transition to guiding designers from being a designer, and I love what you were saying, a slightly more common question. But I love what you've sharing in guiding the awareness of the designers. I hear you using language like transitioning from looking at the data, using the data to what does it feel like?

Wesley: Right.

Woman: Because that really is what's going to open things up for designers to be creating for humans.

Wesley: Right.

Woman: And to be connecting as a human through their creation.

Wesley: Totally.

Woman: So I just totally appreciate that you're speaking about it out loud and that you have the awareness that you have to be able to use that.

Wesley: Thanks.

Woman: Yeah, it takes a lot of awareness of yourself.

Wesley: Thanks. I think this is the future of design.

Woman: Absolutely.

Wesley: Like drawing buttons, making layouts. Eventually a computer will be able to do that fairly simply, and almost everyone will have the tools to do it competently, right? But what computers are really bad at is synthesizing data to curate the right subset of information to present or to use to create a better experience that I don't think a computer can do yet. I'm always thinking about the evolution of our discipline, our profession, and I'm always thinking, "What tools could I create that basically kills off our profession, the things that are laborious now?" Which also in turn basically means that people shouldn't have a job if they become stuck in this one-like thing, unfortunately.

I think that this is the... right, exactly. But everybody has to change and adapt and evolve, and the future of design, I think, is the right curation, understanding how to work with data scientists, understanding how to work with data that it's not prescriptive of what you should do, it's the foundation for how you create the next experience. Thanks for validating that.

Ryan: Now you realize you took the front seat, right?

Wesley: Exactly.

Ryan: Awesome. Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate you all coming out for our December Soapbox. We'll see you all in 2015. Thank you, Wesley. Thanks for coming. You want to give him a hand?

Wesley: Thank you.

Learn from Past Influences