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Place in visual narrative and why this show is over-hyped

The way setting is employed in a visual narrative is a microcosm of the quality of its writing and directing. If you happen to know a setting well, it doesn’t take long to recognize a mediocre show.

I was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, where Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is set. I am skeptical of recommended content, but when they referenced New Circle Road in the first 10 minutes — I kept watching.


5 ways a team that designs together, sticks together.

Close-up illustration of 5 links in a chain, on a chartreuse background. 2 of the links are a colorful pattern.
Close-up illustration of 5 links in a chain, on a chartreuse background. 2 of the links are a colorful pattern.
Illustrations by Avalon Hu

I’ve left a lot of design teams.

Sometimes it was because there wasn’t room for me to grow. Sometimes I left because I was underestimated and gaslighted. Sometimes I didn’t believe what I was being asked to design.

There are a lot of big and small reasons designers move on to greener pastures, but recently I find myself celebrating 5 years at one company and almost 3 years on the same design team. How did this happen?

It’s not just me. The Adobe XD design team has remarkably low turnover. People come to this team and typically, they stay. The…


What a pandemic teaches us about product design.

I plan ahead. Both as a product designer and in my personal life. It’s a pretty common human tendency. But there’s so much we can’t anticipate when we first make those plans. Things happen — whether it’s as local as a personnel change or as global as a pandemic.

Then our plans change and our goals shift and we’re embarrassed or disappointed or angry at ourselves. Yet, if you look closely, what often results is more realistic, more informed, and more important than what we’d set out to achieve.

A snapshot of a 2020 plan with boxes for each month and hand-written bullet point goals for each.
A snapshot of a 2020 plan with boxes for each month and hand-written bullet point goals for each.
Oh the places I thought I’d go…

I began this year like any self-respecting Type A journaler: with…


August 2014.

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This week I learned the meaning of burn out. For 8 months I’ve worked a job whose hours and emotional labor extend well past M-F 9–5. I live at the top of a 6-block hill in San Francisco’s Excelsior, and have had to adjust to hoisting groceries on 2-transfer bus route. Every person I’ve met, I was meeting for the first time — every impression a first one.

Loneliness has settled in my body in a way I can’t ignore. I am tired. I am away from all the people I can skip the small talk with. …


If your city had to communicate without words — could it?

Icons transcend language. When communicating without language, you need images. But what happens when there aren’t icons for what you’re trying to say? What happens if you’re trying to tell someone applying for food stamps that they need a birth certificate? How do you say that without words?

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The Inspiration

After helping Molly McLeod with the Flyer Design Workshop at Civic Design Camp in April, I saw how fun it is to get a group of people together to produce something quickly. In a conference setting, there is so much listening and sitting. …

Ainsley Wagoner (she/her)

Product Designer and Musician in San Francisco.

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