This is the first in AIKON’s Mighty Capital-sponsored podcast series on building blockchain products. Here, AIKON Co-Founder and CEO Mark Blinder speaks with Palm NFT Studios Director of Design Connie Wong. Mark and Connie discuss the balancing act involved in building blockchain products, as well as how NFTs are driving larger interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency. They also discuss Connie’s other job as a DJ, and how there might be overlap between music and product design.
On building products for experts and novices alike
Connie’s experience in designing blockchain products spans multiple companies, including stints at Kraken and APIFINY. So to kick off the discussion, Mark asks Connie about key considerations when designing products for the blockchain industry. Connie says it involves a bit of a balancing act.
Connie says, “In order to design intuitive and delightful products that people like to use, and that scale in any industry, you have to know, first, who you're designing for, what personas. And take a data data driven approach that's user-centered. We're still in the early days of blockchain and crypto adoption. So for the newbie, that's if you're completely new to this space, there seems to be a pretty high barrier to entry. If they don't understand technologies. If they don't understand the jargon and nomenclature that's heavily used. It can be intimidating and scary for them to even enter this space as a new user.
“So it's important to optimize for both the crypto savvy user that lives and breathes it, like we do, as well as just also make sure that we're not keeping that barrier to entry too high for the novice. And many in the industry are still kind of failing to see that, which is why we're not seeing as much mainstream adoption as we can be.
“There are platforms that cater to consumers. Coinbase does a really good job of that. The key is finding the right balance between the two. So you're not dumbing it down too much for the advanced, savvy user, and providing enough guidance and education for the new user.”
On trends in product design and music
Connie also has a second profession: as a DJ. Her experience includes several sets at Burning Man, among other places. So what about the overlap between product design and music? Whether preparing a music set, or building a new product, there is a lot of time spent preparing something for someone who's not there. How do you know what people are gonna like before they see it or before they hear it?
Connie says, “I take different approaches for design and for music. But for music, I always have my finger on the pulse. You know, what genres are kind of rising? And what genres are fading? And then also having a personal touch as well. A good DJ doesn't just play what is mainstream or hot today. You have to have your own personal spin on it. Pun intended.
“For design, there's constantly design trends that you have to track. When it comes to product design, it's a little more concrete than visual design. There's going to be visual design trends that come and go. Do you remember the aqua pill buttons? You can always pick out the era the design came from just by looking at some of the UI.
“For product design and UI/UX design, there are paradigms that we follow. And as far as trends, I think that doesn't impact flows and interaction as it does impact visual. But these are all things that I always track, like what UI frameworks are being used in the tech stack. It's really important to understand how things are going to be implemented in code as well.
“To break it down even more, you can say that the UX and the interaction design is the foundation of the house. And then the visual design is the facade. So while the facade can change, depending on what products you're designing, you just want the flows to be intuitive. To follow convention. To give the proper affordances to the user that's going to be interacting with them. So those aren't as impacted by trends.”
On NFTs as the gateway to crypto
Connie leads the design team at Palm NFT Studio, where they are partnering with artists and creators and content owners that are looking to launch NFTs on the Palm chain. It is well-known that NFTs had a huge year in 2021 – Yahoo Finance referred to it as the “Year of the NFT.” Connie thinks the breakout year for NFTs is big news for blockchain in general.
She says, “I refer to NFTs as the gateway drug to crypto. There's crypto enthusiasts and crypto ‘degens,’ which is a jargon that we use for people who live and breathe crypto, and that trade NFTs. But many NFT holders are new to the blockchain industry.
“Buying an NFT resembles buying any other collectible. We have a partnership. We're dropping 200,000 uniquely generated NFTs for Batman. It's called the Bat Cowl collection. So it's really exciting. A lot of the people that we predict are going to be buying these NFTs are new to the industry. They are just big fans of Batman and DC. And they're treating it like a collectible. It's not unlike buying any other kind of fine art.
“It's something visible and beautiful that you can see, as opposed to an invisible digital asset or stored in an invisible wallet. So it's something tangible, which is what I think makes it easier to comprehend and digest.
“The next great thing about NFTs is it's helped artists build a community and fandom around their art. It just gives them a much wider reach. There's a lot of activity in Discord channels around communities based on being fans of the IPs or these artists. So, NFTs are not just the asset, but it also gives you access to special events. Or it's like an access pass into the fandom. So it's a lot of excitement and loyalty that's being gained in all of these communities that are centered around NFTs.”