New IDer: Tal Shay

by New Idiom


Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Israel and lived there all my life. In ‘96, like all other Israeli 18 year olds I went into the army. That is where I started the journey that led me to discover the field of Usability. 11 years later I’m now 29, still nuts about it, and still got tons left to learn. I believe my major will be comm. design, but I’m also interested in research and want to spice it up a bit with design planning.

I love traveling, and try to visit new places whenever I can. I’ve been to 5 continents, but haven’t seen enough. Not sure when we’ll get to travel next, because now we spend all our holidays going to visit family in Israel. I also LOVE eating and cooking, but Eitan is such a good cook I don’t bother enough anymore.


Happily to Eitan. We met while working at ICQ, but it always makes me laugh when people get confused and think we mean we met through chatting on icq.


Not ready for that yet.

Politics? Religion?

I hope we could live in a world where both of these didn’t matter, and we’d all be considered the same and have less reasons to fight with one another. But I guess that’s just wishful thinking, I don’t believe that will ever happen.

How did you end up at ID? What were your motivations for coming? Where were you before?

By pure luck. I’ve been going back and forth between learning, working, discovering I’m missing some tool or knowledge in order to work better, and going to study to get that knowledge. I used to work as a UI designer at ICQ’s web team, and then realized I needed to know more about Human Computer Interaction. There wasn’t anywhere to study that in Israel, so I went to study the human part - psychology and cognitive sci (I threw in East Asian studies just for fun).

After I worked as a UI specialist at Pamam, a consultancy firm, and learned tons, I realized it was time to get a masters. I wanted to do it at the cutting edge, so I looked for places in the U.S.In the meantime Eitan got relocated from work to Chicago. I didn’t know ID existed until a friend from Carnegie-Mellon suggested I check it out. I went into the website and my eyes opened. Here was a place that was teaching exactly all the tools I felt I was missing while working. I loved being a consultant for UI and thinking of how to simplify things for others. I’m sure that after learning the tools and methods here I’ll go back and be even better than I used to be.

What are your first impressions about ID?

I love it. I love the diversity of the people (you should hear the backgrounds of my foundation cohort), and I’m amazed by the degree of curiosity. I used to be the odd bird with how curious I was, but it’s nice to be around others who are similar in that respect.

The classes are fascinating. Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m actually learning these things in class. It feels like someone picked all the things I loved doing after business hours and compiled a curriculum out of it.

What do you think you could bring to the people here at ID? (culturally, socially, etc.)

Infecting boundless curiosity and a will to learn and improve everything (not just products and systems but yourself as well). Good spirits and someone who’ll tell you the truth to your face (I’m Israeli - we’re not good at sugar coating). A mind that thinks almost nothing is impossible. I’ll always try to think of other ways to solve a problem.

Is there anything from your home that you think people should not miss?

Tel-Aviv. It’s an amazing city for many reasons, mainly the beach, the people, the excellent food and the unsatisfiable will to live.

Which designers/thinkers have impressed you the most lately or you are following now?

I know it’s getting too popular to say this, but I have to say Don Norman. I’ve been following him for years, I love taking his books with me on holidays. When we went to Sinai I think I didn’t lift my head out of it until I finished it. I guess that his being from such a strong background in cognitive sci makes his rational resonate well with me. I’m so used to reading him while on a beach holiday (Sinai and Thailand) that it will be a change to read his coming one in the Chicago winter.

Tell us quickly about a project that you’re working on now that you’re really excited about.

Trying to learn the market here. I’m not used to having such a variety of companies that work in this field. I’m also not used to having so many conferences available to choose from. I feel like a little kid in a candy shop.

What are the websites you could not live without?

  • Gmail - I am a bit obsessive about checking my mail.
  • Pandora - Can’t live or think without music, and I like being able to type in a song I like and find new bands that are similar.
  • Jajah - Because it enables me to speak on the phone for free with my friends and family overseas, and they give me a lot of strength.

What kinds of activities are you planning to do in your free time (in case you have any) while at ID?

Catch up on my reading list. Sleep. Spend more time catching up with friends and talking with Eitan. I haven’t done any pottery since I started my undergraduate, and
I miss it deeply. I’m here to learn, from students as much as from classes. I’m always open to hear criticism. So if you think of something I should know or change please tell me.