Xbox head of design August de los Reyes is headed to Pinterest.
De los Reyes helped Microsoft radically rethink its approach to design. After an accident left him wheelchair-bound, he started considering how inclusive design—building products for people with disabilities, and in doing so, building products better for everyone—could make Microsoft's products more accessible. He had been in charge of Xbox design since 2013.
The leap to Pinterest—where he will take the role of design manager—is a surprising career move for a designer who, as we described in a profile earlier this year, has an "almost-spiritual attachment to video games."
"I got an email from [cofounder and CCO] Evan Sharp. I had no interest in looking for a new job or role. As far as I was concerned, being head of design for Xbox was a destination role," de los Reyes says. "But I started talking about my vision for 21st-century design, and what his vision for Pinterest would be, and we found so much overlap. It’s almost creepy how many ideas and values we share. . . . Evan and I just clicked."
As de los Reyes explains, inclusive design is just one part of his personal design philosophy. He’s also interested in equitable design, or how things like software can better accommodate gender and marginalized communities. And he believes strongly in design’s potential as a force of ecological change. Pinterest is where he believes he can bring this philosophy to life.
"One of my plans, for the end of my career, is to leave some sort of legacy," de los Reyes says. "Whether it’s to my employer, or to the design industry at large. And it just so happens that I’m in legacy-leaving mode."
Pinterest has been on a hiring spree, drawing figures such as former Apple designer Susan Kare and Curator founder Daniel Nordh. From the outside, it can be hard to understand the draw. Pinterest revolutionized interface design with easily sharable visual cards, and has since amassed more than 100 million users and an $11 billion valuation. But compared to contemporaries like Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, Pinterest has been conservative in adding new features, and taken its time in transitioning its social network into a money making e-commerce business. Meanwhile, the company has been investing largely in its design’s performance, making pins load faster at the global scale—which while certainly important, probably isn't the most exciting work compared to the long-shot R&D-level UX of other social networks.
Of course, as with any company, there’s a lot going on that we may not see from the outside.
"It’s really about what Ben [Silbermann] and Evan are trying to accomplish. At the face value, back in the old days, it was thought of as visual bookmarking. Now Pinterest is being framed as a catalog of ideas," de los Reyes says, alluding to Pinterest's new goal to show you just the thing you want—be it a recipe or a rug—right when you want it. "But I think there’s something even greater than that—it’s about being more creative, and unlocking creativity, and helping people discover things they love."