Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Nikki Sylianteng

Nikki Sylianteng

Interaction Designer

Posted in designer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! My name is Nikki Sylianteng and I'm an interaction designer, which means I'm constantly looking at how people use things and figuring out how to fix it. These things can be objects, services, standards, or systems.

Some of my projects are: the guerrilla parking sign redesign project To Park or Not to Park?, a pop-up reading club called Reading Jane, a catalog of simple yet radically functional City Objects, a series of therapeutic food prep videos called eating carefully, and a glow in the dark print about finding your people called A Mini Multiverse.

I'm currently a senior product designer at a startup that makes an ergonomic device for factory workers. I'm most active on Instagram at @nsylianteng, and post occasionally on Twitter at @nsylianteng.

What hardware do you use?

I think best with paper and pencil. I'm constantly jotting down to-do's, ideas, and thinking through problems.

I alternate between two pencils and two notebooks depending on my mood. For pencils, it's either the Muji Low Center Gravity mechanical pencil with 0.5 lead and the Papermate Sharpwriter with 0.7 lead. For erasers, I use the Pilot Foam Eraser or the Faber Castell Dust-Free Eraser. For notebooks, I use the MD Notebook Blank [A5] for its creamy, buttery pages. Portability is important to me so this size is just right - I've tried the larger A4 but found it too heavy and large and I didn't need the extra space. I also use the Midori clear vinyl cover to keep it clean. The Midori Spiral Ring Notebook [B6] has a nice spiral binding detail and the pages are slightly offset from the cover keeping the edges clean. This is a bit better for meetings and when doing research in the field because the spiral lets you fold it completely over and keeps it compact.

To highlight parts of my drawings, I sometimes use Prismacolor Premier Soft Core colored pencils which my illustrator friend said are the softest. I use mostly neon pink or orange, red, or light blue. If I want to take my colored pencils around, a pencil sharpener is important. I used to have a small plastic one that was always a challenge to store. I ended up losing it and got one that attaches to my keychain. If I need to draw something for work (i.e. easily sharable in a document or over email), I use my Wacom Bamboo Create tablet, draw in Photoshop or Illustrator, take a small screenshot, paste, and send.

My laptop is a MacBook Pro from 2014. I can't believe it's been that long. Although the battery life is not great, it still works well. I'd like to keep it for as long as possible because I really like my SD card slot and I'd like to avoid the dongle life in the newer laptops for as long as I can. When I want to have good posture while working, I use this transportable wooden laptop stand that folds flat made by these two Nordic architects.

I'm pretty good at documenting my work and process and think good photos are really important. I use a Canon 60D DSLR with 24mm/2.8f and 50mm/1.8f lenses because they are the best combination of sharpness, compactness, and price.

And what software?

Adobe Suite (mostly Illustrator and Photoshop with Kyle T. Webster brushes), and Sketch for screens. I use Apple Notes a lot because it syncs across my phone and laptop. I send and accept invites on Google Calendar. Google Suite for work docs.

What would be your dream setup?

Every now and then, I think of getting a Wacom Cintiq or an iPad Pro but wonder whether I do enough digital drawing to warrant the price. Other than that, a light-filled work space with limited desk space for thinking work (because I'm very easily distracted), and a slightly larger desk space for prototyping and manual work. A wall for pin-up space. And my dream of dreams is a calendar or kanban board that syncs across physical space (for focus) and digital space (for flexibility and sharing).