Lu Yu

Lu Yu — Semplice

A product and brand designer raised in China, Lu lives and works in Berlin by way of Melbourne and Istanbul. She is also a speaker, judge and a lover of photography and illustration.

What led you into design?

My mom is a fine art teacher and started teaching me about traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy when I was five. I loved the texture of bamboo pen. I loved the smell of the ink. And I loved the feeling when the soft pen nib touches rice paper. Later when I was in secondary school, I fell in love with manga. I had stacks of Japanese manga in my house. I was a big fan of Clamp, a collective of female Japanese artists. I spent hours copying their style of drawing.

Unfortunately, I had to give up practising when I went to high school due to a heavy load of school work, but I always had an interest in art. So when I decided to continue my studies in Melbourne, I picked communication design – something close to my interests but not requiring many hard art skills, as I hadn’t been practising for many years. I was quite lucky as it’s always been easy to sustain a living with design, and slowly I discovered my potential and love for it, and never left designing again.

What does a typical day look like?

I spend most of the time working from home. I usually wake up around 9.30, and the first thing I do when I open my eyes is pick up my phone and check emails. As the weather is getting colder and it’s getting harder to get out of bed, I now check Semplice support tickets and try to help our customers from the bed too.

After some struggle, I finally get out of bed and make myself a coffee and plan what I am going to get done today. I often have a large variety of tasks and no day is the same as the other. Sometimes I spend hours by myself designing marketing pages, sometimes I explore solutions for the next big feature, sometimes I discuss product features with the team and support implementation, and other times I discover beautiful portfolios for our next Semplice Showcase feature. I usually spend long hours in front of my computer, and the most relaxing time of the day is around 7pm – dinner! It is the time I am completely disconnected from work and fully concentrate on enjoying food.

What’s your workstation setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

I find myself rarely reading design books and only occasionally browsing the typical design sites like Dribbble or siteInspire. I get most of my inspiration from things that are not directly about design. I love learning about architecture, industrial design, photography, illustration…

Since I recently moved I looked into a lot about industrial design and absolutely fascinated by it - the form of a piece of furniture, every curve every corner, the texture when I touch it with my figure tips, the color of the wood or fabric… I guess when an industrial designer start on a new project, they probably ask similar questions as we do in digital design: Who is this product for? What is the use case? What is the budget and who is involved in the process?

Learning about things outside of design helps me build my visual reference library. It’s also a good way to get out of my comfort zone and see things from another angle.

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

The Porsche 911 GT3 RS Lego set! Its production has been stopped and I got it recently as a collectable piece. The building sequence is just like the real-life Porsche’s assembly process. The engineering behind it is amazing - they included everything in a real car into one small model: suspension springs, gearbox, steering wheel, gearshift paddles, engines with moving pistons… and they are all working! I especially love the bold black and orange look of it. There are 2704 lego pieces in this model so it took a while to be built, but it was great fun.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

The Semplice team has a super high standard for everything we release and I am proud for pretty much everything I did for it.

The Semplice product design system: This was designed during the ‘flat design’ period, and it seemed like making every UI element solid color or outline is the only thing that makes sense. But we took a different approach. We did not blindly follow the trend and instead we thought: This is a tool that users will spend a lot of time with, and the UI should look clean and extremely easy on the eye: give buttons dropshadow so it looks clickable; don’t be shy to add inner shadow to make input field like something user needs to fill in… We managed to keep the look and feel elegant and timeless.

Semplice marketing pages: I don’t remember how many of those I did, too many. We ship new content almost on a weekly basis and I work closely with our copywriter from concept, to visual design, to building that completely with Semplice.

(Devices 3D renders by Daniel Lepik)

What design challenges do you face at your company?

Self-discipline was a huge challenge when I started working remotely. Working from home when no one is watching is tough, and my biggest enemy was the fridge – I was looking for snacks every half an hour! It took me a long time to get better at it and I am still fighting against it.

Lastly and most importantly, communication. This is critical for a remote worker. It is easy to assume your team already knows what you’re doing or what you have in mind, but it’s often not the case.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And if you did, come up with solutions to make it better.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Recently we secretly launched Semplice 5 (pssst). In the past year the team worked crazy hard on adding many exciting features, making it easier, faster and more delightful for creatives to build their website. I worked on all parts of the product - from each small icon to night mode to new feature UX flow. Make sure to check it out here! Here’s a sneak peek of the new interface:


(Artwork by Pawel Nolbert and Jean-Marc Denis)

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