Steven di Blasio

PHL ✈️ SFO ✈️ PDX

Currently

Working on Product and Design at Zebra IQ.

If you'd like to get in touch for any reason, you can email me at steven@diblas.io or DM me on Twitter @inactivityfeed.

Previously

Stolen!

A silly, addictive and regrettably problematic game for Twitter.

Famous

An overdue rebrand and redesign for Stolen!, plus a web version.

Monocle

A camera for sharing stories and making memories.

Heyday

An automatic journal and travelogue for your phone.

Whale

Ask questions, get answers from experts.

Mango Health

Your mobile health companion.

Vibes

Pixelated video dating with a soul.

Vibes Society

An experiment in meeting people.

Famously

As our head of design, Steven was the sole designer responsible for successful design of Famous and Stolen, as well as our unreleased video product. Steven's strength is in his holistic thinking about products - he goes far beyond being just a UX or visual designer, he's a product designer in the truest sense. Steven not only makes sure things look good, he makes sure that they work well, and even more importantly he spends time to make sure that things work well in the context of the product as a whole. He has the mind of a product manager but the skills of a designer. On top of that he's very technical and is able to not only communicate smoothly with engineers, he can even implement designs if need be. You would be lucky to have someone like Steven on your design team.

Siqi Chen @blader
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Vibes

Lead Product Designer

Featured in App Store

Vibes was a novel attempt at bringing some soul and humanity back to dating apps. Through pixelated video conversation - rather than text messaging - we aimed to facilitate genuine connections and a level of intimacy rarely found online, with the hope that people could really get to know each other before that potentially awkward first date.

I joined Vibes when it was an app called RealTalk, aimed at doing something similar, though on a global scale and far outside the context of dating. People were using the app and forming real connections, but to an unclear end. I rebranded it as a dating app called Vibes, and I re-architected its UI/UX accordingly.

The new direction felt right - among initial testers and eventually our first batch of App Store users - and everyone fell in love with it. But in a difficult, crowded landscape, without a marketing team, Vibes struggled to grow quickly enough and with enough geographic density to make it work.

Dating apps are hard. Pitching one with video communication is even more difficult. I believe we had created something special, but ultimately we failed to communicate our message and market the product successfully enough to capture the momentum it needed.

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Vibes Society

Lead Product Designer

Unreleased

When our original plan for Vibes failed to meet expectations, we went back to the drawing board. We knew we had created something special in the core product's seemingly innate ability to connect people, but the challenges we faced made us consider taking another direction toward a similar end.

We opted instead to position ourselves outside of the competitive dating market and hone in on our strengths. Knowing our biggest problem was getting a critical mass of users online at the same time, we tried something different - we focused on a single university campus, and limited app usage to set periods of time throughout the week. Something like a very casual party that'd take place on your couch, combining privacy and socialization - and a bit of gamification.

We ran beta tests with students on campus, acquired via hyperlocal marketing campaigns, and overall people had a lot of fun. But it was a challenge to get enough users online at the same time, and with only the wink of some dating potential, our value proposition was a bit murky.

Dating apps may be hard, but social apps in general are not much easier, especially with the unfamiliar element of time-based exclusivity. Without a stronger marketing presence, a clearer value proposition (say, trivia prize money) and a more effective feedback loop, we cut our losses and moved on.

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Mango Health

Senior Product Designer

Featured in App Store

Mango Health is a personal health and medication assistant for your phone, making it easy to keep track of medication intake and drug interactions in addition to maintaining healthy life habits.

I joined Mango as a Senior Product Designer in charge of hiring and managing design teams for our iOS and Android products as well as new marketing materials as needed. Along the way I created a fresh set of brand guidelines, designed a framework for improving user experience across the board and led the design and development of the Mango Health's first Apple Watch app.

Mango continued to grow and cement its status as one of the leading apps in the field. It still maintains an extremely loyal following.

Upon its acquisition by Express Scripts, a giant of Pharmacy Benefit Management companies, I chose to move on to pursue opportunities where I could have a stronger and more direct impact on product.

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Whale

Lead Product Designer

Featured in App Store

Whale was a video Q&A platform built for connecting curious people with influencers and experts. Ask a question - for a fee determined by the answerer - and get a response in the form of a video that anyone can view for a small amount of in-app currency. Those who submitted questions would then receive a portion of the viewership earnings.

I was brought on in the early stages as the first Product Designer, tasked with creating the brand and user experience from scratch.

Whale was received very well at launch, especially by the tech set, no doubt in part due to the influence of co-founder Justin Kan and the product's strong execution. But there was something to its novelty as well - nothing similar existed in the space, at least not in video format.

Following that initial hype though, the product struggled to grow much beyond its predominantly tech userbase, which itself dwindled, and our revenue model did not quite work out as expected. Influencers and experts were keen on offering answers for free to boost their exposure, and our in-app currency was subsequently devalued. Eventually, retention dropped and the hype went away. The market simply was not there - at least not where we presumed it would be.

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Stolen!

Lead Product Designer

Banned from App Store

Stolen! was a game for Twitter with a simple yet addictive concept: amass in-app currency through a variety of methods, spend it to "steal" other Twitter users, and earn more currency through your investments and the popularity of your own account.

I helped adapt Stolen! from an ancient Facebook game on which our founder, Siqi Chen, had built his empire. I reimagined the product for mobile, creating an entirely new brand and user experience to bring the concept to a new generation of players. I made it a priority to make it look, feel, and behave as a game would, complete with colorful themes and flashy animations.

We launched Stolen! as an invite-only beta, but it exploded beyond our control in a matter of weeks. Before we knew it, we had topped 100k users and almost as much in revenue.

We were on top of the world. But we were woefully unprepared for the mass public scrutiny which followed. A game where players essentially buy and sell other people, in a post-gamergate political climate, was bound to be doomed from the start. I anticipated a lot of these problems, but certainly not the speed at which they arrived. We were still testing, after all. Following some uproar on Twitter and a letter from a Congresswoman, Stolen! was unceremoniously removed from the App Store before it could even reach a 1.0 release.

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Famous

Lead Product Designer

Banned from App Store

Not to be deterred by the Stolen! saga, we took its criticisms to heart and rebranded as Famous. The new concept was this: collect your favorite people on Twitter, show off your fandom and share your love.

The apps shared a lot of similarities, no doubt, but our rebrand was carefully considered and nuanced. No money, just hearts. No ownership, just #1 fans. And gone were all imagined avenues for potential abuse and harassment that Stolen had been accused of having. Famous was going to be different.

We tried for months to get Famous in the App Store as a new and reformed product, but to no avail. Responses from Apple were scarce and unsatisfactory. So we forged on and built it for Android, and I helped build a mobile-friendly web app for our iOS users. But it seemed the damage had already been done.

At the end of the day, we couldn't recreate the magic of Stolen! for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was timing, the loss of hype, the lack of a real iOS client, all of the above. Whatever it was, we finally ran out of money, shut it down, and sold the company. Our strange journey was finally over.

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Monocle

Lead Product Designer

Unreleased

Monocle was conceived as a new way to capture, store and share your memories. In some ways it was Snapchat Stories before Snapchat introduced Stories. But it was social in a different way - more intimate, less performative - and decidedly non-ephemeral.

I wanted Monocle to feel like a toy camera in your pocket - your personal, digital, video Viewmaster™ that you could share with friends and family or just keep to yourself. Since the focus was on memories, I designed it so you could have multiple ongoing stories at any given time. It was fun and playful, but more than that it was meant to feel special, meaningful.

Initial beta testing with family and friends went as well as we could have hoped. It felt great, almost magical. We wanted to use it all the time, to capture our lives and our experiences, to show them to others, to relive them ourselves.

Around this time, Snapchat rolled out Stories and we still had not figured out growth, a real hook, a business model, or our real end game - something was missing and time was of the essence. We were running out of money. So with heavy hearts we shelved the project and got to work on Stolen! instead.

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Heyday

Lead Product Designer

App Store Editor's Choice

Heyday started life as a decidedly private, personal, automatic journal. It tracked where you went, how you arrived, which photos you took when you were there. It structured your days according to those movements and activities and then it allowed you easily to attach notes to any of them, to keep a journal or travelogue or whatever else you wanted. And it kept all of those things for you and only you.

The first version of the app did its job very well. But it was free to download with no business model to speak of. Ads were looked down upon and a subscription model seemed unfeasible at the time. I was brought in to re-imagine the product as an optionally social experience. So I designed the next version as less of a journal and more of a daily visual novel of your life, any day of which you could choose to share publically with other app users or with friends and family using your own private web link.

The redesign covered a lot of bases - too many, in retrospect - including branding, certain UX elements, and some layout changes. But more importantly it shifted the product from something strictly private to something else entirely. What once felt like a personal diary suddenly looked like a social storytelling platform.

People don't like change. Massive redesigns rarely go over well, and that's one thing. But when you change a user's basic conception of a product, it can feel like a betrayal. Functionally, not much had changed. Fundamentally, we had added a sharing feature and some better discovery tools. In many ways, the core product had even been improved, significantly, in terms of its original purpose. But when user expectations are violated, you risk losing their trust and ultimately their loyalty. Growth and retention stagnated further, and we moved on, hoping to solve the same problem in an entirely new way.

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