Product Designer at Adobe
Khoi
Vinh

Based in Brooklyn, Khoi is the Senior Director of Product Design at Adobe and was previously design director for The New York Times. He's the author behind Subtraction.com, a widely read blog focused on design and technology.

New York, United States • March 9, 2021

What led you into design?

As a kid I really enjoyed art in all forms but as I got older I started thinking more systematically about visual expression, and that led me straight to design as a profession. I feel very lucky that I found it too, because design sits at this wonderfully hectic intersection between art, culture, technology and business and so there’s many places it can lead.

What does a typical day look like?

Well in the middle of a pandemic, I would guess my typical day looks like anyone else lucky enough to be able to work from home: I go downstairs to my home office, sit down in front of my computer and suddenly it’s seven or eight hours and seven or eight video calls later. Of course they’re not all the same. In some I’m reviewing work from the designers on my team, in others I’m working with colleagues on where the product needs to go next, in others I’m talking to customers. And for several months each year I’m also squeezing in time for production on “Wireframe” the podcast on design and creativity that I host. That means editorial meetings, conducting interviews, and recording, which since last year I’ve been doing in my basement.

What’s your workstation setup?

I’m lucky enough to have a great workspace at home with an “L” shaped desk that was custom built for me by a wonderfully talented carpenter I hired several years ago. It’s a great “command center” for my iMac, which is my main machine, plus an old MacBook Pro which I use exclusively for video calls. I’m also a heavy iPad user, so I’ve got that nearby as well. Last year when we all went into lockdown and people started sharing their work-from-home setups, I wrote about mine in detail here.

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Where do you go to get inspired?

I try to keep up with what’s happening in design by reading the Sidebar newsletter, visiting Designer News, and regularly scanning Behance. I also get a lot of inspiration from film; I watch a ton of movies and track everything over at Letterboxd, which is a ton of fun. 

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

For Christmas, I got a pair of Apple HomePods, a product that hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but I’m still quite excited about it. When you connect a pair of HomePod speakers with an Apple TV, the experience is pretty magical. The sound is *phenomenal* and moreover it just works, which is more than I can say for other home theater systems that I’ve played with. The integration of hardware, software, mobile and services is truly terrific design. 

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of the work we’re doing on Adobe XD, our new design and prototyping tool in Creative Cloud for people who make websites and apps. There are a ton of great ideas in there from the incredibly thoughtful, talented team of designers that I lead. We’ve got a lot of work to do but it’s really a source of great pride for me to be able to point to this mammoth project. 

I also feel a deep sense of satisfaction with the editorial contributions I’ve made to design over the years, from both my blog at www.subtraction.com and also in the three—going on four—seasons of “Wireframe,” where we tell rich, deeply researched and surprising stories about design and creativity.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

We are in the process of reinventing Creative Cloud, taking longstanding success stories like Photoshop and Illustrator, reinventing new ones for new platforms and collaboration modalities, and creating new ones, like Adobe XD and Adobe Fresco. Design is integral for all of this to succeed and at every level, starting with product design, extending into service design and end-to-end experiences, plus marketing and branding too. Taken as a whole it’s probably one of the biggest and deepest design projects that anyone has ever undertaken and it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of it.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Two pieces of advice: do a lot of reading and a lot of writing. The more you do of each, the more rocket fuel you’ll add to your career. 

Anything you want to promote or plug?

So much! First and foremost would be Adobe XD, which is free to try and, I think, is the fastest, most designer-friendly design tool out there. Then there’s “Wireframe,” which will be launching its fourth season in the spring.