Here are some interaction design principles I learnt from architecture and game design that you can use in your next projects.

An interface should always be thought of as a living environment. A house’s exterior don’t usually change over time, but its interior shifts freely—both aesthetically and functionally—depending on its occupants.

Users feel more comfortable the more tangible a space is. Note how you’d probably never see a game that doesn’t have some sort of a horizon. Players should spend their time playing, not acclimating themselves to how a space works differently inside the game than it does outside.

Game designers have used a technique whereby players would be dropped into a new area, and somehow are able to figure out where she needs to go. How did they do it? It turns out that it isn’t so much about scattering telltale hints (arrows, tooltips, snippets, etc.) as it is about providing visibility of what’s to come.

Players like to feel clever. Games are designed in such ways so that players get to figure their own way out of a situation through their knowledge of the space (ie. The wall is brighter on that path, so an exit likely lies at the end of it). Yet we‘re often told that, in experience design, clearer labeling is always better (“Click here to confirm your purchase!”). Have we dumbed down our users too much?

Design tutorial areas, not FAQs. Users don’t read manuals. Here’s why: a manual fails because studying a subject isn’t the same as feeling or grasping that subject. So spend more time creating good sample files and hands on tutorial environments, rather than writing extensive manual—not that that’s not important.

Acknowledge co-presence. Co-presence says that there is always more than one user interacting with your interface at any moment in time. Making them aware of each other’s presence is important. It feels good to know that you’re not the only one braving this wild graphical frontier and dealing with its bugs. And when problems do happen, it feels even better to know that somebody somewhere could be having it too, and she may have the answer to it even when the support team is taking an office-wide vacation to Antigua.

Use co-presence to foster co-ownership of and collaboration on the space. People have been putting message boards up on community-owned space, because it engages individual occupant/passerby/user in something potentially bigger than themselves. A proof of co-presence’s digital success? Chatroulette.

All of these points lead to two simple principles:

  • Designers may first design an interface, but ultimately should relegate the ability to shape the world to its users.
  • When users create their own experiences, doing right comes naturally.



Founding Member

Cre8Camp, the world‘s first ever unconference for creative professionals

Refresh Portland, a monthly meetup on web design and usability

brashCreative, the Art Institute of Portland’s student-run ad agency


A former anthropologer and design strategist at Wieden+Kennedy, Bram Pitoyo now dabbles in the intersection of user experience, architecture, game design and most other subjects, and strives to be a dissident against materialist reductionism.

Despite his long-time affection for typography, he still cannot figure out if this a disease or a vocation.


CyborgCamp, an unconference on human–technology relationship

Portland Tech Twitter, a wiki database that helps you find interesting and relevant technology professionals on Twitter

Open Source Bridge, a platform-inclusive conference for developers who work with, and people who are interested in open source technologies

Research Projects

Legibility and usability of digital typefaces in low-resolution displays

Digital preservation and revival of endangered, indigenous scripts

From Commons To City Hall,
a manual for community managers and organizers to make citywide impact by planning, managing and measuring their events

Social Intelligence Dashboard

Circa 2008, an RSS-powered monitoring tools hacked together from a combination of open source technologies, that helps community managers listen to their users, competitors, opinion leaders and industry trends—shortening the time it takes to manage brands online


With Nielsen Norman Group, January 2012 – Present
Conducted tree testing, card sorting and paper prototype user research sessions and built new information architecture, user experience and visual style for Mozilla Support. Currently designing Mozilla Support on mobile and Firefox Marketplace Developer Hub.

August 2009 – October 2011
Planned, designed, prototyped and developed web experiences for national and global clients like Nokia, Nike and Target, as well as internal use. Managed an online community of viewers, influencers and journalists for Wieden+Kennedy’s media lab, WKE.

Air New Zealand
With Small Society and tenfour, February – April 2009
Planned an integrated digital experience to promote the airline’s LA – London route utilizing Adobe AIR, Facebook applications, microblogs and an iPhone application. Collaborated with Small Society to research and build an RSS filter for the app’s implementation using Yahoo!Pipes and Yahoo! Query Language.

With End Point Corporation, May – June 2009
Developed a MediaWiki theme for Bucardo, a set of PostgreSQL database maintenance tools, that 1) encourages editing, 2) provides access to helpful, commonly overlooked features, & 3) improves readability of code-intensive documentations.

Q2 2008 and February 2009
Designed wireframes and UI pattern library for a web application that facilitates direct democracy. The result was later developed into an application by Pinpoint Logic.

September 2006 – January 2009
Developed brand strategy and researched cultural insights for local and national brands in the creative, health and hospitality industries.

Oregon Tobacco Prevention and Education Program
With CoatesKokesFebruary 2008
Conducted ethnographic research to serve a yearlong advertising & PR campaign that built public momentum around Oregon’s initiative to ban smoking on bars, pubs & restaurants.


Speaking and Designing

Reporting and Writing


O N  M A S H U P S

On Alchemists

I believe that that sparks, insights and idea cannot be generated in the separate spheres of any field of knowledge. They can only happen in the overlap between those fields of knowledge.

This calls for a type of people that I would call ‘Alchemists.’ Alchemists are people who, by their diversity of knowledge, are able to build better things.

For example, in the field of User Experience, Alchemists are those who knew not only Ethnography, Usability, Design and Programming, but also Baseball, Viniculture, the art of writing great Emails, and all sorts of human endeavors—that are able to engineer products with not only sound logic (Fitts’ Law et al.) and beautiful architecture (code), but also social instinctiveness (graceful gestures.)

On Mashups

Most people think that geeks, designers, and generally all the citizens of the Creative class are just interested in, well, geekery, design, and other creative things. This notion is partly true. Most geeks are in tune with their gadgetry, and most designer worships [insert a mid-century designer / architect / typographer here.]

But to truly succeed, we need to diversify. We must immerse themselves in things that other ‘normal people’ do. It helps when these ‘things’ are closely interrelated—my examples above are Ethnography, Usability, Design and Programming—but it needn’t always be that way; because in diversification, almost anything and everything helps to add to your success.

The point is, if we are to succeed, we need to:

  • Understand the intimate connections between closely related fields of knowledge, and
  • Be men and women of culture, who not only dabble in the things that are related to our fields, but all sorts of human endeavors.


“A huge thank you 2 @brampitoyo for an enlightening, balanced & thorough wordpress consulting session today at Urban Grind. He’s an amazing consultant!”
Mark Colman, photo guru.

“Without Bram, I would have been lost about why using Arial is an unforgivable sin.”
Victoria Hartke, copy pundit & frequent partner in crime.

“Keeping things on the down low has proven to be his greatest asset and in my opinion, has secured his position as the back end driver of information discovery.”
Kristin Wall, SEO & SEM maven; also, a grunge photographer in her own right.

“I'm sure if you gave him a Swiss Army knife, duct tape, and let him go to town within 72 hours he”d come back having created the newest update to Adobe Creative Suite...I assume that for Bram to do all this he must either be inhuman or seeking the help of some recreational substitute.”
Cory Brubaker, Creative Director of brashCreative & source of brews, micro or otherwise.

“Type-fanatic...“Elevator-music” enthusiast...Happy guy...Extremely resourceful. He's always a step ahead of everyone.”
Hermicar Gaxiola, best friend & design queen.

“Bram is the epitome of reliable, enthusiastic & knowledgable.”
China Z. Hamilton, fellow researcher & Jill-of-all-creative-trade.

“Show him a design piece and he’ll critique the hell out of the a nice way of course.”
Christine Vo, a visual designer often known for having surprisingly high work ethic & low turnaround time.

– Average success rate of finding materials that a creative person will find highly informative and/or amusing.


“It’s rather cozy sitting up all alone in the dark, making fonts, drinking tea & listening to some good music.”

Ellinor Maria Rapp’s typeface design methodologies, which perfectly summed up how I view typography.

Mies, Mies
Van Der Rohe

Architectural music video of the moment.

In Repose

Geek editorial site currently on bookmark.


80’s rock tribute band of the moment.


Favorite typeface, as of March 2008


Song & spoken word of the moment.


Current favorite bedtime reading matter.


Thank you, and good night.