Alexandra Bond

Alexandra Bond — Robinhood

San Francisco-based designer of products & brands & teams. Illustrator sometimes. She probably likes you a lot, but she is an introvert and hopes you don’t take it personally that she never wants to hang out.

What led you into design?

As a kid, I was always into drawing and writing stories. In group projects at school, I was that kid the group made “draw the picture”.

My brother and I spent eons playing Myst and Oregon Trail on our family’s ancient Mac. I spent a troubling number of hours engrossed in a game called Storybook Weaver, which was probably my first exposure to what might generously be called a design tool. It came with a library of icons and characters (that are, in retrospect, terrifying) along with some rad text editing options. It offered endless creation -- and I was hooked.

I eventually got into Xanga and Neopets and Myspace… all those weird internet spaces that entertained us millennials and created many of the designers working today.

As luck would have it, my well-funded public high school had the budget to offer graphic design as an elective. I was allowed to marry my awkward interests of spending-too-much-time-on-the-computer with visual art. Thank god.

What does a typical day look like?

I get up early—around 5:30 in the morning, so I can do yoga, take care of my apartment, and take care of anything I need to do in San Francisco before my commute. After traveling to Robinhood in Menlo Park via CalTrain or car, I eat breakfast while checking email and Slack.

Depending on the day, I may then have a meeting to sync on the week’s priorities, crit design, or make product decisions. Other than that, I try to block off at least two hours or more of uninterrupted design time. I also like to block off time to work in-person with a teammate or two; some of our best work happens during those impromptu workshops.

What’s your setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

I’m a fan of gaining inspiration outside the design industry. My boyfriend works in film, so we constantly discuss his projects and watch movies with other industry pros; the similarities between making a film and designing a product are surprising. It’s inspiring to learn how a different creative industry solves problems using tools similar to those in design.

I’m not the first to say this, but reading is also a great source of inspiration. I love novels, histories, thrillers, cheesy self-help, and everything in between. Some recent favorites include Hedy’s Folly, Suspension, and Black Hole Blues.

As a palette-cleanser, I’m a fan of laughing. The tech and design communities can be a bit humorless sometimes. The antidote to Self-Important Design Twitter™ is always an episode of Monster Factory or Reply All. Honestly, the world would be better if we laughed at ourselves more.

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

I’m not the first to say this, but the Nintendo Switch continues to impress. It’s a great example of design spanning disciplines to solve a problem. A product that not only works, but works well, as a standard console, handheld console, and portable multiplayer tabletop game genuinely blow my mind.

What I’m trying to say is... I’m jazzed I was able to play Mario Kart on an eight-hour flight with the person in the seat next to me.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

We recently launched Robinhood for Web. The design process has been an ongoing collaboration with everyone in our company, especially our talented research team. We’re far from finished; the team is actively iterating, responding to user feedback, and designing new experiences for the platform. I’m so proud of this product and excited to expand on it this year.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

The area of fintech that Robinhood occupies is fairly uncharted.

It’s exciting to design experiences that don’t exist anywhere else, but it’s also challenging to solve certain problems that haven’t been solved before. We iterate and test repeatedly to uncover user needs and prove our design theses. The subject matter is complex, but that’s also part of the fun… how can we improve an experience that has been traditionally obtuse?

I love that we get to work so closely with our co-founders to define product goals alongside visual and experience design. It’s the kind of challenge every designer dreams about.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Maya Angelou said it best: people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Be a decent person. There are a lot of talented people in this industry; high-value tend to be talented and kind. Also, let’s be clear: “being kind” doesn’t mean pulling punches or telling someone their work is perfect when it could be improved. It simply means not being a jerk about it.

I try to apply the principles of a “growth mindset” to myself and others—Grit by Angela Duckworth is a great read on this concept.

When in doubt, remind yourself to critique the work, not the person. That’s our job, isn’t it? We’re designers because we like solving problems. Designers who only go half-way and point out problems without any ideas for improvement are usually not effective.

Whenever a peer in the industry asks for a recommendation, we all recommend people we’ve enjoyed working with who treat others with respect. Never forget how far showing others some humanity will take you when combined with your technical skills.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Robinhood is hiring and we just moved into a gorgeous new office in Menlo Park. We’re looking for visual designers, product designers, devs of all kinds, and much more.

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