Meet the Global LINERS
Mingyu Lee / Product Design / LINE Plus
Mingyu joined LINE as a designer in 2014 through a recruiting drive aimed at experienced professionals. He joined LINE because, at the time, messenger culture was just evolving and he found those services interesting. He is currently engaged in product design for Timeline, LINE's social media service. Let's find out more about Mingyu’s fun experiences and achievements at LINE!
A quick three-line summary
- Mingyu designs products for the Timeline service.
- Good design comes from active communication.
- The LINE STYLE of Mingyu is “Perfect Details!”
Q Please give us a brief description of the product design field and your work at LINE!
LINE's product design team is responsible for creating a UX that prioritizes usability while, at the same time, offering a UI design that best fits the functionality of each service. The product design department works hard to come up with designs that offer great usability, in close cooperation with the engineers and planners. Rather than just following narrow design rules, we make a point of creating an environment where each designer has autonomy and we fully trust their decisions, and where we encourage each designer to challenge themselves and come up with designs that they never knew were possible. Over my time at LINE, I have been able to experience this culture in depth across our various services. Currently, my job concerns our social media service Timeline, where I design the overall UI as well as the emoticons that appear when a user “likes” a post – those emoticons are an important tool that people really enjoy and that encourages them to use the service longer. Recently, I have also been designing the personalized recommendation service for the Discover feature, which incorporates AI technologies within Timeline. There are so many features on the LINE messenger platform. The product designer who designs the UI does not only designs one feature, but also needs to work with all the other features available within the LINE messenger platform. Before I began to design Timeline, my primary role was to design the real-time streaming service LINE LIVE, and the news service LINE TODAY.
Q As you design a range of services that are global in scope, you need to understand the differences between various countries and cultures. How do you do this?
Because we’re working on services that are available globally, obviously we don’t know as much about local markets. However, rather than just getting frustrated by this limitation, I find working hard to understand local cultures really helps me come up with more sophisticated designs. Learning foreign languages is important. I’ve been studying English through LINE’s in-house language support program, and, although I am not very good at it yet, I believe it helps me communicate more effectively with our overseas departments. After I learn English a little more, I plan to start studying Japanese as well. In addition, I travel abroad frequently, which exposes me to foreign cultures, and whenever I travel for workshops or business trips, I make a point of trying to learn about local user behavior. Because I design social networking services, I frequently check out what kind of content users in each country are posting and in what manner. I believe this helps me learn a great deal about the cultures and trends of our users. As I also enjoy social media in my daily life, that helps me remain immersed in my work and facilitate my learning. When I am able to travel a lot for work, I try to visit our key markets once or twice a month, or at least once a quarter. And while in each country I share my opinions about usability with the planners and conduct a kind of beta test for the users there to see how well our ideas suit their particular sensibilities. In particular, I closely check the pattern and flow as to how the users use each feature, and how they perceive our services and which flow they wish to follow to use them.
Q Please briefly introduce your team members and the way you work as a team.
Our team has such excellent teamwork that we even won the Best Team award at the year-end party! We have healthy and active culture of communication on my team, and that gives me confidence in our ability to always figure out the ideal designs. Each morning, we briefly share over the LINE messenger the work that each of us is doing and what the purpose of each project is. This also allows us to stay abreast of our colleagues’ work and prevents any confusion. I also believe that our team composition is perfect. We’re a five-person team, and each person has a distinct personality, and the team leader is good at finding a balance. One person is knowledgeable about development, another person knows a lot about external contents, and one person thoroughly understands the trends. Together, our strengths create synergy, allowing us to create more sophisticated and splendid designs. What’s really important is how we’re able to engage in quite intense discussions and exchange ideas, regardless of seniority or position. Everyone is very competitive, so they prepare their arguments in great detail. So we’re able to have quite heated discussions, and then the team leader coordinates those opinions to create a service using the most persuasive arguments.
Q What was your most memorable moment at work?
Among my most recent tasks, what comes to mind is a project I had about changing the motion and image for the “like” emoticon on Timeline. If you click “like” on a Timeline post, an emoticon with an emotion appears, but we found that in some countries people tend to find facial expressions for the emoticon uncomfortable, so we needed to change that. We considered various changes and decided to try replacing the emoticons with heart-shaped hand gestures and improving how they move. Since the heart-shaped hand gesture began in Korea, there was a lot of concern about whether it would really work for people outside Korea. But after the release, we tracked the global indicators and checked user reviews/patterns, and found that the change was quite successful.
What do you need for success?
Q What kinds of capabilities do you believe you need to perform well in your work?
If I were to pick three, they would be communication skills, the need to really immerse yourself in a service, and a focus on details. First of all, I believe that it is essential to communicate well between team members as well as with the other people you work with. Since our services are available to a large number of users, we should be able to listen to various ideas and accept them even if they differ from your own. Also, I believe the process of reaching a consensus is important because the engineers and planners can have different viewpoints and perspectives toward each service. Designers tend to propose plans in advance when creating or improving a service, and we create easy-to-understand alternatives through prototype tools, giving us an advantage in persuading engineers and planners. Next, I believe that deeply immersing yourself in a service allows you to offer a better experience to users. Through experience, designers naturally learn as to how a single feature is connected to the entire service and how each project should be carried out to ensure efficiency. I believe the mindset you get from being really immersed in a service or a project can serve as the foundation for amassing know-how. Also, using other services similar to our service is helpful for developing a keen eye. The last point is attention to details, and I believe that you need to look at the UX as well as the visual side to create good design. Personally, I like the LINE STYLE category of “Perfect Details” and check every detail during a design project. This allows me to make a design with no unnecessary details and that’s easily accessible for users.
Special experiences at LINE
Q Is there anything about the culture of LINE that you’d like people to know?
Above all, I really like our flexible working hour system and remote work system. In particular, designers are free to work autonomously regardless of time or location as each person has a different way they work most efficiently. I tend to work regular hours, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., but my colleagues are quite flexible about their work hours. Also, as mentioned earlier, there is an in-house language support program, which helps us study foreign languages. I believe that it is important to learn foreign languages and maintain a global mindset as our work is globally based.
Q What changes would you like to see at LINE?
I don’t really have any major issues at the moment. However, when I first joined LINE, as there were few people in my team, there were times when projects had to be carried out rapidly at the individual level, and I had my hands full. In particular, I expected an atmosphere where people actively communicated with each other, and it was a little disappointing as I couldn't really do that at first. However, the situation has changed a lot since then, and a mentor program has been introduced. With the rapid growth of the company, a system and culture of taking care of each other seems to have been well established, so those who join the company now should be able to adapt more quickly.
Q Do you have any goals you want to achieve at LINE?
The Timeline service that I work on right now does not seem to have a higher usage rate than other social networking services. I would like to continue to improve our service to attract more users. I hope that I will be able to obtain better metrics in the end!
Q Could you please leave a final word for the future LINE designers who may become your colleagues.
I hope that they will feel free to just be themselves. Feel free to be quirky and unique, and you will be able to shine in the product design department and our free and autonomous environment. I believe that it takes a variety of personalities to create a good team, and a good team creates a good service. Also, if you are inquisitive and really into the service you’re designing, you will be more than welcome! I have experienced a lot of design work at LINE, and launched many services, but I know that my colleagues are always with me. I look forward to making great designs with great people in a great environment!