My journey into design

Designing a product CAN change the world. And when users can successfully complete tasks and enjoy the process, it benefits everyone that contributes to its creation. The user has a better solution to their problem which saves them time to enjoy other things in life, engineers have solved for barriers they once thoughts were not feasible, managers expand their social capabilities for keeping teams cohesive, and entrepreneurs learn to translate problems into solutions. Those are just fragments of how a product can have a positive impact on the world. If you imagine the supply chain involved for selling an iPhone, think of where you bought it from and where it originally came from, then you’d realize that all the hands involved in that supply process had some kind of surety of having a job or making economic gains for their family.

I must admit, in the past, I used to see products merely as a means to profit, an extension of greed. I wouldn’t have thought of a product as a way to make the world a better place. Instead, I preferred direct impact, such as serving the homeless on Thanksgiving day, for example. However, my mindset started to shift and my perspective on product design began to change when I read “How Rich People Think” and the biography of Steve Jobs. This evolution further developed as I started creating products with the help of no-code platforms. While direct impact, like in the previous example, is effective, we can’t be everywhere at once to help people. What we can do, though, is create products that can make a difference because they become our omnipotent extension of our helping capacity.

There’s a story I love to reflect on. It’s about an old man who was throwing starfish back into the ocean after a storm washed up a vast number of them onto the shore. Walking alongside the man was a boy who asked him, “Why does it matter that you throw the starfish back in the ocean? There are so many.” The old man, holding a starfish in his hand, looked at the boy and said, “It matters to this one.” That message resonated powerfully with me, highlighting how helping others can manifest in unexpected ways.If I were to say that Airbnb makes the world a better place, some might be skeptical. How can a large-scale private enterprise (with its associated fees) genuinely impact the world for the better? I’m not referring solely to the jobs they’ve created and the opportunities for increased income. No, I’m talking about the couple whose marriage needs a getaway to reignite that spark. It’s about the dispersed family that can come together for a reunion under one roof. A product can become much more than just a revenue stream for a company.

man and boy walking along beach covered with starfish
AI generated image

I’ll be honest—I’ve never considered myself the artistic type. My drawing skills are subpar, and my handwriting follows suit. However, I can tell a story with words. I get too caught up in the minutiae of painting a canvas with a brush, but when I paint a house, my attention to detail creates stunning work. I could say I’m creative, but I wouldn’t claim to have much creative expression. It wasn’t until I started creating products that I realized product design is creative expression! Throughout my adult life, I paid close attention to details—the slightest angles or alignments of objects—and constantly thought of ways to improve things, making them better, easier, and more efficient. My attention to detail and problem-solving skills truly come alive with product design. It’s the convergence of all my abilities and creativity.

Balance. That is the best word I can use to describe my design style. Just because I have a critical attention to detail it does not slow me down from delivering a product. One of the significant things I’ve learned, not just from my products but from some of the best products in the world, is that products evolve and they need time with users to hone in on the needed changes. You may think that you need to refine one feature or styling before a launch, but if that item is slowing you down from launching then you are losing valuable time with users; it may turnout that the feature or style you’re hung up on is not significant to users. If “The Lean Startup” comes to mind then you’re right, my design is a fruit of that paradigm. Let’s create something and get the feedback loop started. At the same time we need something that is easy to use and we want it to be crisp with details. This is the balance of product design.

cover of the book "The Lean Startup"

As you can see, by the above illustration, there is a lot that goes into product design. My background in research and business development has enriched my foundation in business-minded design. Through my work in my startup company, Refetch, I learned to be resourceful and tenacious in acquiring my first client. I experienced the process of going from idea to launch independently. Collaborating with my first client to develop a tailored solution pushed the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of achieving without an engineer. This whole experience has taught me the importance of being selective in designing to enable an agile go-to-market approach, without getting overly fixated on design details. It’s a delicate balance because while I aim to create a beautiful product, I also prioritize getting it into the hands of users.

refetch logo contained

It took five months of design sprints, followed by one week of Alpha testing and two weeks of Beta testing, but I’m proud to say that Refetch’s product is now live and being used every business day to modernize the local DMV and better serve the community. This achievement was possible because I had a laser focus on delivering a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that can solve a problem, while acknowledging that additional features can be added over time. The entire vision I have for the product is not fully realized yet, and I am perfectly fine with that because I am continuously learning about customer needs as the product is being used.

I love weightlifting. While I won’t share my progress pictures here (that’s a goal for Instagram), I can say that I do look different compared to when I first started going to the gym. If I were to tell you I’m a bodybuilder, you might conjure up images of super muscular men in your mind. However, that’s not my personal goal. I aim to maintain the current surfboard-to-physique ratio I have. Nevertheless, I am considered a bodybuilder because my focus is on aesthetics rather than heavy lifting or athleticism. I draw a parallel between bodybuilding and product design because, in both, I have a vision and know where I want to be but it’s solving on how I arrive there. The refinement doesn’t occur in my expectations or goals, but rather in the means to get there – and that should be transmutable into other areas of life for us all.

image of mike mentzer
One of my favorite late body builders, Mike Mentzer, for his theories on “less is more” workouts

I’ve enjoyed learning about the nutrition that supports the process, improving my mind-to-muscle connections, and tracking my progress week after week (not to mention using the tracking app I created, Scoopful). However, progress takes time! Unless you resort to performance enhancers, you won’t see immediate results in weeks or months. This is analogous to the efforts of product design. While the vision for a product exists, it takes time to refine and realize it. You may design it in Figma and create a prototype, but achieving widespread product adoption requires refinement, which in turn necessitates time and feedback.

My Design Theory: Business-Minded Design

I enjoy a good idea, but if it can’t pay the bills it has to be modified. I think this is true for designing also. A product can be designed with so many considerations in mind but sometimes those considerations slow down the delivery process and prolong a product’s user adoption. If we’re talking about a product launch then I’d rather design a literal MVP (minimal viable product) than a robust application full of features. I say that because if we haven’t validated the main features then why would we create complimentary ones? I do believe in creating a robust application that is full of features, but that comes with time and after we have surety in the main product offering.

I also, when it comes to product design, I believe in being frugal and resourceful where it makes sense. Sometimes it makes sense to pay a premium for tools, resources, or people that will alleviate time for other business tasks. But other times we really need to examine the feasibility of those premium solutions and how it fits into our current life cycle. Being mindful of this resourcefulness is what, I think, separates innovators from ideators. It’s easy to spend money, but it’s not as easy to stretch it. And on a further note, probably a personal rant, what’s the point of a super graphical website if it does not provide clarity to a user or ROI?

My Design Style: Creative Pragmatism

I love designing. It pushes the boundaries of my creativity and expands my reasoning. When someone approaches me and asks how we can make a better process, THAT excites me. I would describe my design style as creative pragmatic – how can we create something and pay the bills too? I am artistic about it though, I look for inspiration like a creative artisan, staring silently into existing related/unrelated products or instances of ideas that surround me. I prefer designing solutions that utilize sequential ordering, breaking tasks down into multiple steps. This approach may result in a product with more screens, but maintaining a minimalist display reduces overwhelming feelings for users. When users feel less overwhelmed it helps our bottom line.


Symbolism, familiarity, and tone heavily influence my choice of graphics and text. For instance, when creating a product for Gen Z users, I might consider using a typeface similar to Snapchat’s. Prompts will contain fewer characters, and I may incorporate more signifiers. Designs will adapt to the product’s target audience, as this ensures a more unbiased approach to designing.