Alumni Spotlight: Tony Chu Principal Designer at Noodle Analytics, San Francisco

by Jason R. May 16, 2017

We caught up with Tony Chu for our latest Alumni Spotlight, who told us all about what she's been up to since graduating: working in AI, expressive data visualization projects, and what a typical day looks like for him working as Principal Designer at Noodle Analytics in San Francisco.

Catch us up with where you are?

So a couple months after graduating I moved to San Francisco, and that's where I have been for the last three years. I'm currently working full time as Principal Designer at Noodle Analytics, an AI-as-a-Service start-up.

Tell us a little about your current work and some other projects you’ve been involved in since graduating?

Currently I am the first designer at a machine learning (ML) oriented start-up, where I am designing and building data visualizations that help our customers better understand the data science work we are doing on their behalf. The work is in a fairly specialized niche that requires a working knowledge of machine learning, data visualization, and communication design.

Outside of work I've been busy working on more expressive data visualization pieces, like this Introduction to Machine Learning project. I am currently working on part 2, as well as other visualization explainer pieces.

Credit: Tony Chu

What’s next for you?

Just keeping at it really. There's a lot of unexplored ideas in the intersection of design and machine learning that I would like to get to. Over the next year I aim to build out the visualization and communication design practice at Noodle, so that I might have a team to work with me on that.

The recent political climate has also inspired me to look again at what design and data visualization can do for political engagement. (Kind of along the lines with what I did for thesis.) I hope to publish a few pieces in that space over the next 18 months.

Credit: Tony Chu

What does a typical day look like for you? Are you spending all your time at work, or finding time for personal projects? Do you wish it was more balanced or more intense one way or another?

On a typical work day I'll make breakfast, eat, then bike to work. Since a chunk of my team is in India sometimes I'll be hopping on a call with them right away. The rest of the day is a mix of client meetings, prototyping, and asking the data scientists to explain their work to me.

I try to be disciplined about leaving work at 6pm. After getting home I cook, and then if I have any energy left I try to work on my side projects.

What were the most telling/important moments since you left university? Have you taken any big risks? Did they pay off the way you imagined?

When my partner Stephanie and I were building R2D3, we wondered if anyone would actually look at our little side project. In the week after it was published, it has over 250,000 views. That was the moment when I really internalized the importance of good communication design, especially for a topic like machine learning that typical seems so opaque. It also affirmed for me that the machine learning niche was very much worth pursuing.

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