Helen Tran — Product Designer (helentran.com)
over 5 years ago from Max Lind, sometimes Maxwell
over 5 years ago from Max Lind, sometimes Maxwell
See how designers deal with the ego is always interesting :)
Seeing how fragile men comment on a woman's personal website isn't as much. You folks casting judgment should be ashamed of yourselves. You're the reason gender bias is in the news so much.
It´s your problem is you want to convert this in something related to gender, men and women. So, please, don´t make me part of your prejudices.
Oh bullshit. It's her personal site. It's not a portfolio. You clowns decided to make judgment of a personal site on the basis that it was supposed to be a portfolio for a designer simply because she put her occupation in the title.
No sarcasm intended. Is personal site different from portfolio site? Also, I do believe Paco does not support gender bias (who does?) but the idea of personal branding (not sure). For me I love the site, it's very genuine and a lot of good articles I wish posted on Medium too.
I wonder why I've never seen a similar reaction to:
Helen has some fantastic content in here that showcases her considerable experience and point of view, but for some reason many of the comments here focus not on the work, but on Helen's character and looks. Just... what? Why does anyone here think that's ok?
There are portfolio critiques on DN almost every day and so many portfolios showcase their authors' personalities alongside their skills. Many stray much closer to "ego" than what is ultimately a very fun, playful site. I've never seen the words "model," "beautiful," "dating profile," "vain," or "ego" thrown around for a man's portfolio as they have throughout this thread.
Instead of getting defensive and denying any bias, think about whether you'd ever look at van Schneider's website and think "dating profile." Regardless of your intentions, this behavior is pervasive and absolutely toxic to the women in our industry. Have you noticed there isn't a single comment by a woman on this thread? On most threads on DN? Why do you think that is?
Cut this shit out.
When Van Schneider comes up he is absolutely ripped for his ego, attitude, or aesthetic. As do many other designers who place emphasis on their image regardless of the quality of their work.
Women absolutely have it far worse due to both blatant and/or unconscious biases, but to paint our community as black and white as Design Twitter is strikes me as unfair and more damaging than helping.
*cough cough ... Just want to say, that as a woman, I found his comment more helpful than damaging. I didn't see his comment as divisive at all, but rather a callout and reminder to all about some of the sexist and asinine things women encounter while participating in this community.
Sorry my mistake, I didn't mean to say Joel was being divisive. I don't think I have ever seen/read Joel be divisive haha.
I was responding to the uproar these comments caused on Design Twitter and how designers are labelling the DN community as a cesspool, trash, filled with racist misogynists, etc.
Yes they exist en masse, but not especially here, not especially in design, and these comments aren't a particularly good example of how bad design critique can get from a sexist or any perspective. As I showed above similar comments ARE made about male designers who strongly emphasize their "brand" and how they look.
I don't think any critique of how we brand ourselves should be derailed so easily because we want to fit it into a big topic in our society today, and I don't think we should automatically assume that designers who critique a portfolio as "more about identity than work" are raging sexists.
If many of these people had to interact with these critiques in person, I bet you would see far less harsh accusations. But we live in a society today where we don't see the other person's face and we can easily jump to the harshest conclusion possible as to why someone is saying something we disagree with.
Heard. Thanks for your thoughts.
To respond, while the DN community may not have these terrible types of people "en masse." They do exist. Maybe not as harsh, maybe not as disgusting, but they are on here... So, why not try to stop it before it gets worse? Why not start speaking up when you notice these moments. Let's be proactive.
When it comes down to it, many of these comments were not constructive. They did nothing to help. If you want to give someone criticism on their brand identity, by all means go for it, but be professional about it. The words "beautiful," "dating profile," "vain," or "ego" don't have to belong in the critique of hers or any portfolio. There are many other, more productive words, with less association to a sex out there that could have gotten the point across. "More about identity than work" is a fine critique.. but when it comes down to it, many comments here did not verbalize in that manner.
While we live in a society where we don't see each other's faces and tend to jump to the harshest conclusions, we also live in a society where people take this as an opportunity to say things quicker, harsher, and without thought.
So, why not try to stop it before it gets worse? Why not start speaking up when you notice these moments. Let's be proactive.
Because you can't prevent or predict everything, and not all of it is as harmful as people are making it out to be. It was discussions like these that made me realize my earlier views WERE wrong. I feel like our society and in my experience designers and developers in particular have lost the ability to have a debate without jumping to the conclusion that the opponent is evil, racist, sexist, biased, what-have-you.
Furthermore we have become so sensitive and obsessed with being kind-to-a-fault that we lose the ability to actually hear an argument past the triggering phrases. Beautiful, vain, and ego are all perfectly descriptive words for certain people regardless of sex or gender, and if I made a portfolio that made people think that I would want to know!
Honestly I'm kind of curious which specific comments are poorly worded or sexist here? I just read through the whole thread again, and I'm having a hard time calling any out as specifically sexist (and I am someone who looks for that kind of stuff usually!) beyond that potential difference in amounts of critique.
Can you quote one that you would consider an unfair comment and that wouldn't appear on a portfolio from a man? I'm not saying that doesn't happen, it absolutely does, I just don't think this thread is an instance of it.
As a woman, the first time I read through this thread I felt weird. I left the thread and maybe an hour later came back and read it again, and that feeling was still there. It was a feeling I had gotten many times before— like when standing next to my brother and being the only one asked if I’m ~in a relationship~ or when I’m interrupted mid explanation/thought, or when I feel unsafe if I have to wait alone at a bus stop after the sun goes down.. the list goes on. But what these all have in common is this underlying subtle sexism, this thing that is not easily seen and when it is, many try to brush off as nothing. But it persists and it is tiring.
I get that we can’t prevent or predict everything. And this thread to you may seem harmless, but these "harmless" little moments add up. What we are experiencing right now in our society is the pattern and momentum of change. Things hit the extremes before the dust settles. I am personally taking this sensitive time in history as a learning experience and an opportunity to find my voice in these little moments.
My thoughts are this. If you read this thread over and decided there were no poorly worded comments with underlying sexist connotations, than so be it. To each there own. I could very easily point out a comment that I felt qualified as a poorly worded critique, but I don’t believe pointing one out will do anything but continue this thread and ultimately lead us back to how we both feel now.
I respect and appreciate your perspective and opinions. Although I ultimately disagree with you, I have also learned something from you, so thanks.
Tobias really should consider modeling tho
The problem Paco is the group thinking this industry seems immersed on, every comment could be misinterpreted and people is "publicly" lynched.
As I read it you just expressed a comment towards designers without any gender implications.
Is it me or people is over sensitive? Maybe is a problem of societies were not everyone is respected as equals, I know both in my country and Spain people tends to treat each other in a equal way.
Helen is awesome. Love that her site shows off her as a person, rather than only focusing on design.
It´s something interesting... but clients are really interested in your personal live? I´m not sure. I think who you are is also important but not more important than your work. When I´m in the other side and need to hire a profesional to do some work I don´t care about her last fitness competition.
Anyway, This is not a critic. I like the website and everyone is free to choose the way to be exposed to the world :)
To each their own ¯_(ツ)_/¯
In her case, it's a selling point. While perhaps you aren't looking for culture fit when looking for a designer, many larger companies/brands are.
Well, perhaps you are assuming things about me :)
I think culture and the value of who you are is important and a part of you as a profesional. I understand the concept and you have to be very... I can´t find the word in English if you put as a hero content a video or you dancing, but I think is good. Anyway, IMHO the way the content is balanced is not so awesome or super cool (just my opinion)
I can see this person has a very strong personality and also has the ability to make it a very strong point and I´m sure that is something that really work in her case but I think that is too much. When I saw the web I only could think in... EGO. But is different and here I am, talking about it with you, so I guess the goal is reached... but I don´t like :)
At the end is only an opinion and who cares...
Calls out designer for displaying too much "ego" whilst making ridiculous justifications to defend his own ego.
In quite simple terms, what's happened here, Paco, is that you have seen someone else's (truly excellent) work and you've immediately tried to invalidate it based on the fact that she's beautiful, self confident, "not a designer", and so on.
You can hide behind the logical fallacies all you want (It's about design! It's about layout! It's about showing the right face to clients! It's just my opinion!) But in reality, she's leading design at Shopify, and you're doing agency work and UI experiments on Dribbble.
Perhaps instead of thinking up new and novel ways to defend your own ego (the irony), you should take the time to read some of the things Helen has to say, and learn from them.
I´m not invalidating anything. That is what you say. The quality of her work is out of any discussion. And, thanks for judging my work. It´s funny you talk about fallacies and finish your post with an authority fallacy trying to invidate my opinion because my work is not so relevant as her. I´m stop writing here because I don´t want to be disrespectful.
By the way. I wrote this yesterday in one of the comment I made... Maybe I don´t like some parts of the web but I can see the value that it has and I´m sure I can learn a couple of things of how she talks about herself and how to make your personal site.
So, please, stop judging me.
I believe if all you want is freelance projects, you're probably better off just showing work.
If, however, you want to be considered a partner, an asset, and somebody who can add long-term value as an employee or contractor, you should show off more than just your work. We always complain about not having a seat at the table, but then we position ourselves as pencils waiting to be picked up.
I think Helen's site shows that she's dead serious about strategy, she's a total badass, she's respected by her peers, she's extremely ambitious, and she has actual visual design chops. Call it ego, but she's just selling herself as more than a photoshop monkey.
In my opinion :)
I agree when you say about being more than a designer and sure she is amazing and awesome and super ambitious and profesional. As Nice Shoes says, the first impression is... different. After that you realize Helen is an amazing profesional. No doubt about it, but you don´t need to show you as a H&M model in a fashion comercial to prove it (ask Paula Scher, for example). So, yes, I call that ego. It´s like the classical stereotype of "the cool designer".
And not doing that do not means that you are a photoshop monkey at all.
By the way, It´s difficult to find the tone in not your native language. I´m using smileys because of that and remarking that what I´m saying is just an opinion because we are talking about the work of other person. So, I´m saying if something like me or not. Be as sarcastisc as you want :)
Maybe I don´t like some parts of the web but I can see the value that it has and I´m sure I can learn a couple of things of how she talks about herself and how to make your personal site.
I wasn't being sarcastic at all. Your English is fantastic. My smiley was to let you know I'm not trying to be contentious either :)
Hey Dustin. I´m sorry, sometimes is difficult to understand how things are said. So it´s my fault :)
Probably depends on the type of clients you want to work with. Image is huge.
Although placing 2nd in a fitness competition may not seem relevant to you, to me it shows she has hobbies and interests outside of work, and she also shows hard work and determination that led her to come 2nd in her first attempt at something.
So much of this criticism just comes across as terminally insecure. It's quite upsetting to see people so intent on tearing down work that's so obviously great.
Hi! A woman commenting here!
Two points here.
I agree that the balance of content on Helen's site is maybe confusing. Her work is definitely buried. As a hiring manager, I would most likely pass over her for that fact alone. In my opinion, culture fit is important... but the work comes first. BUT, maybe that's not the goal of Helen's site? We don't know. Maybe it's meant to be a more personal site versus a portfolio site.
Using words like "model," "beautiful," "dating profile," "vain," or "ego" isn't a helpful critique. Keep it about the work and content balance. Easy as that! What Helen's doing with her site isn't anything new so it shouldn't turn into a s**t storm talking about it.
I'm struggling to understand why those words are unhelpful. I think most designers learn pretty early on that people's impressions of a design might end up mattering more than the intent or the content. Hell, gut reactions to how a design "feels" can often be the most useful feedback, even when its hard to voice the reason behind that feeling.
If I design a new innovative package for some salad dressing, but other people's gut reactions place it closer to being a laundry detergent, I'd hope to hear words like "soap" or "cleaning" in the critique.
I think that's kind of what happened here: Some felt that the site ranged too close to a fashion or modeling site, and that made it less successful as a design portfolio. Isn't that worthwhile feedback to discuss, whether one agrees with it or not?
Help me understand where I'm wrong or let me know your thoughts :)
I think this all comes back to how impersonally people can treat each other on the internet, especially large community sites like DN. The 3rd comment here is:
The website welcomes you with a full-screen background video of Helen, followed closely by a portrait of Helen, scroll down a bit further to reveal 3 more photos of Helen... I really want to like Helen, however now I sort of think she's a bit vain. Maybe dial down the Helen-ness at the top a notch and move some of it to an "About me" section. Otherwise the top feels like a really well-designed dating profile.
This is someone's personal site, people put a lot of themselves into these things. All critiques deserve respect, but I think personal sites warrant a little extra. So is it respectful to call someone's portfolio "vain"? I can't help but think that word would sting a little being on the receiving end. The comment is written with authority and lacks empathy for how Helen would feel reading it.
Agree with Weston here. Giving feedback is also stair-step process. You start with high-level/high-empathy. And if the person asks for a further explanation or to dig deeper into your comments...then eventually you may stair-step to some of these adjectives we're addressing. But most creatives are intuitive, and when you merely keep your feedback to high-level - they get it.
And this is from my experience of working with creatives (in person) and knowing that creativity is delicate. Harsh unwarranted critiques can make you inner creativity retreat. Is it really worth that? Keep it high level and if they want more detailed feedback – they'll let you know (meaning they're asking for it and can handle the outcome). Definitely not saying to take "feeling" out of your feedback. Additionally, think about how you would give feedback to your partner or your child. Helen's a person...not merely a screen name on DN.
Every. Single. Comment. Here. Is. By. A. Man.
There are a lot of dudes on DN
This is a very nice looking site, but I will echo that it feels more like a personal/photography/modeling site.
The work is almost down at the bottom, which seems strange to me.
I agree with you Jimmy. I feel it highlights a modelling career rather than a designers background.
When someone or something doesn't meet our expectations of what they should look, feel, or act like, sometimes it's a fault on their side; and sometimes it's a sign that we should reconsider our expectations.
This is the most sensible comment in this entire thread.
Yeah that's probably true. It also is kinda silly that this site, which is ultimately hers to do whatever the hell she wants, warrants this much criticism. Mine included.
I think in a lot of creative industries, there is this sentiment of "It should be about the work or it's bullshit" thing going on, and I too often fall into this camp. It's your life and your decisions to do as you please, as long as they aren't harmful to others. Too often we police each others behavior to make sure it falls within the status quo.
It’s a personal site, and thus, will have elements of “vanity” and “ego” by its very nature. I’m not sure why that’s a big deal. I respect the risk-taking to put multiple facets of one’s self out there.
The issue is whether or not those elements come across as shallow and inauthentic, which they do not in this case. The photography is polished and has rhythm like most other things on the site.
I love the site and think it’s really well done on many fronts.
Helen’s site accomplishes two things that stand out.
The site gives a glimpse into who she is as a person, which shows intellectual curiosity, drive, and ambition.
The site demonstrates how she thinks as a designer and exercises a level of intellectual depth in the case studies to drive that point home, which contrasts well with the snippets of her personal story.
If anything, I get the sense this site is very restrained on several fronts. The visual design fundamentals, command of type, space, etc., are well done with some moderate risk taking. The writing is well done, thorough and doesn’t shy away from long form.
Finally, it appears that there is some positioning not just as a designer, but as an aspiring entrepreneur looking to collaborate with other entrepreneurs, thus, the who you are and how you think sides are important.
Very well done.
When the site loaded my immediate reaction was that it doesn't feel like a designers site - a little too much vanity for me. It also felt like it was one of those designers who show you no design work.
However, once I got past that, I became impressed.
Well thought out case studies oozing personality.
Would have liked a little less vanity and a little more work though ;-)
This is badass - love it!
I really enjoyed the fresh perspective on a portfolio website. Culture and Attitude count for a lot - why not show it?
Very strong case studies. I’d rather see a deep dive of a project than a grid of many different projects. Quality over quantity. Beauty site!
Companies hire people, not just skill sets. Helen seems to understand that.
The larger the design team you work for (ie. Shopify size & up), the more important your personality, general interestingness, and the way you signal yourself becomes. In a scaled company the product is already a hit. They don't need design geniuses and left-field innovators (successful companies build war chests of excess profits to acquire innovation). They just need careful stewards of an already successful product.
Trying to implement your ideas from within a large organization is 90% a game of politics and 10% actually having good ideas. It's simply the dynamics of what happens when you get a large group of people together. Look at government for example. In that environment soft skills and standing out go much farther than technical ability.
After checking out the case studies, I think Helen's actual design work is just average at best, but she has positioned herself as more of a future corporate leader vs. just a designer. Which is not a bad thing.
Would I hire her to lead the design an innovative product from the ground up? No.
Would I hire her to be a member of a Fortune 500 design team and groom her for more of a leadership role? Absolutely.
This site rules. More power to Helen for carving out a unique home for herself online. She's done amazing things with the Shopify team, and I can't wait to see what comes from her next initiatives.
The treatment on the case studies, in particularly the internships one, is fantastic, the type is crisp, easy to read and a great size - really well thought out - I just wish there was perhaps a bit more focus on the work as they're pretty far down the home page.
I've got no issue with all the focus on herself with the media, potential clients want to know who they're working with and if I had visuals as high quality as that of myself I'd definitely go down that route too.
Maybe if the focus was in the work we talk about the work...
...it's a personal website, Helen can focus on whatever she wants and in this case she's focused on her personal journey to become the designer she has.
Aww Helen, I miss working with you.
Woo boy. Total cesspool in here.
The site is beautifully made and it showcases Helen Tran as a person as well as her professional skills and accomplishments as a designer. That's exactly what I want from a portfolio.
It's literallyherfuckingname.com - she can put as many images, videos, and stories of herself as she sees fit. We need MORE of this "ego" and "vanity"(see: self-confidence) in the industry - ESPECIALLY from women. The work is important, but the PERSON is so, so much more important. Granted, there's an art to doing this in a refined and professional manner - or you risk coming off as a self-centered boob, but the human being behind the work is ultimately who I care about.
Learn how to critique, DN.
Funny to see the difference in response from this thread to her Dribbble post, https://dribbble.com/shots/3922266-V9-0-Launch
Why does this community (not everybody) almost instantly jump to criticising work in an offensive manner? Yes it is your opinion, and yes you are entitled to it, but people are also entitled to design their own website how they want to.
Is Helen not allowed to be proud of her achievements and share her happiness on her own personal website? Surely you expect that this would be the one place you can post without someone criticising you.
Are you suggesting people shouldn't criticise design work, when posted to Designer News?
No not at all. If you check other websites such as Dribbble, people give criticism but still try not to make the designer feel like shit.
Rare name by the way haha
Haha, yeah! Are you Welsh? I'm not, but the parents decided it would be hilarious to deprive me of vowels.
I just think Dribbble is not a great comparison to DN. The most common comment you see on Dribbble is usually "Nice colours" or "Great!"... I think DN is a more suitable place for actual discussion - and when someone posts something on here, it's open for critique.
I do think criticism is important in design - and for me personally, I think DN is still a bit of a 'safe space' with a lot of overly sensitive people... Perhaps I just feel that the criticism on here is taken too personally - I'm not sure.
Anyway - I think the important takeaway is that I don't believe anyone is trying to make the websites owner feel like shit.
Haha yeah I am
Fully understand what youre saying dude
Smart girls. Rule. Well done mama. You keep doing you.
What a shitty slice of the internet this place has become.
Great website Helen!
Just adding to the pile of comments by men here, and not trying to white knight or anything, but I really don't feel like the images are gratuitous at all on here. Granted I went in intentionally guarding against a sexism bias, but even still - it feels pretty much on par with a standard person-focused portfolio. I expected much much more based on the comments in this thread, and it just wasn't even close.
Loving it, extremely elegant layout.. Always been a fan of Helen's work!
Wow, looks really great! HD media and the crisp type really puts it together.
It's always like that - when you do something good, all of those who don't do or haven't done good enough, and/or are not happy with themselves will criticize you for it.
Helen's site is awesome. Tobias's site is awesome.
If you're one of those people criticizing here, please reflect on your own portfolio... Oh, yeah, nobody is talking about it on DN. Oh, yeah, you haven't let your personality shine through it. Oh, yeah, you don't have a unique 'hip' look.
Obscurity is your worst enemy driving you away from success. Seems like Helen and Tobias got shit together and you don't.
Get your shit together, get out there and do something awesome that would make people talk! Go out there and use your talent to influence people, to inspire.
Besides their portfolios, Tobias and Helen are writing amazing, inspiring articles. They're spilling their guts out on (digital) paper and that moves people and inspires them to be better designers and makers.
"When was the last time I empowered people with something I've put together?" That's the question that each and every one of us needs to ask him/her self.
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