Julie Zhuo on how to hire designers

“You want a designer who has looked for opportunities in their own lives: Problems that need fixing. Things that could be easier. You want someone who sees there’s a problem and wonders why no one has come up with a hack to fix it or a tool to make it easy yet. Then they go and design that tool. Do they include that in their professional submissions? If they do, that’s a good sign.”

From an interview with First Round Review. If you're looking for a primer on how to work on product at a tech company, there isn't a better place to start than Julie's Medium posts.

Pebble watch face design exercise

Once a week, the Foursquare design team has an hour-long meeting. The first half is presentations from a couple of designers on what they've been working on recently, and the second half is a 30-minute design exercise. This past week it was my turn to lead the exercise.

I printed a bunch of copies of an empty Pebble watch, and asked people to design a watch face of their own. The only requirement was that you be able to tell the time by looking at it. Here's what everyone came up with:

Reload active tab in Chrome

This is one of those hacks that saves me 200ms per use, but that I use at least 50 times per day. It took me 5 minutes to make, so I broke even after a month. Not a bad return rate.

I spend half my day with a Sublime Text window on one monitor and a Chrome window on the other, making tiny changes to a CSS or JS or HTML file and then reloading. I got tired of having to command-tab or click on my Chrome window to reload, so I made this applescript to reload the active tab in Chrome:

tell application "Google Chrome" to reload active tab of window 0

Then I bound that script to the keyboard shortcut ⌘-Shift-R (I used Alfred, but you could use whatever other keyboard shortcut thing you want). Now I can reload my Chrome tab no matter what app's in the foreground.

Here's my Alfred workflow if you want it.

Text Tools for Alfred

Ah, text files. Sweet, pure, innocent text files. Always backwards-compatible, never bloated, easy to version and back up. I get nervous when I have to keep data in something other than a text file in Dropbox. Project notes, writing drafts, reference, recipes, and lots of important running lists, all go in ~/Dropbox/PlainText.

To trust my text filing system enough to make it useful, I need to be able to file things away and access previously filed things quickly enough so I don't get distracted from whatever else I'm doing.

Here's an Alfred* workflow I made that lets me do that. It has these features:

  • Create a new text file
    Query: create {folder to create the file in}, followed by the filename in the resulting dialog
  • Search across existing text files
    Query: grep {search query}
  • Append a line to an existing text file
    Query: append {file to append to}, followed by text to append in dialog
  • Prepend a line to an existing text file
    Query: prepend {file to prepend to}, followed by text to append in dialog


Grab it here. Double-click to install.


I wish there wasn't any setup necessary. Maybe in the next version there won't be. For now, you need to specify which folder you keep your text files in, in the following places: 

  • Double-click the "append" file filter in the workflow pane. Click the Search Scope tab. Delete anything that's in there, and drag the folder where you keep your text files into the list.
  • Repeat for the "prepend" and "create" file filters. 
  • Double-click the "grep" script filter, and replace the path (~/Dropbox/PlainText) with the path to your folder. 

You can of course also replace the keywords append, prepend, create and grep with whatever keywords you like. 

* If you're not familiar with Alfred, check it out here. You will either immediately love it and use it constantly, or not see the point of it at all.


Challenges with creating an icon font

From the Wikipedia entry on Unicode's Private Use Area range of codepoints:

One of the more well-known and broadly implemented PUA agreements is maintained by the ConScript Unicode Registry (CSUR). The CSUR, which is not officially endorsed or associated with the Unicode Consortium, provides a mapping for constructed scripts, such as Klingon pIqaD and Ferengi script (Star Trek), Tengwar and Cirth (J.R.R. Tolkien's cursive and runic scripts), Alexander Melville Bell's Visible Speech, and Dr. Seuss' alphabet from On Beyond Zebra.