Vicki Tan is a Product Designer, a public speaker, a student of Behavioral Psychology, and a dog mom based in Brooklyn. She currently works at Spotify, and has previously worked at Headspace, Lyft, and Google. She cares deeply about the human aspects of design, and the insights that data cannot provide. In her spare time, she's working on an illustrated book on cognitive bias.


We spoke in mid-July 2022, and I was excited to talk to Vicki because she's been at the center of designing some really delightful digital experiences in Headspace, Lyft, and Spotify, and has given interesting talks on the complex interactions of data, logic, and creativity.




In this conversation we talk about:

  • How Vicki got into design by forging notes for school.
  • Studying Behavioral Psychology, and using that lens in design.
  • Her early work in psychological research.
  • How she found her way into Google.
  • The importance of cognitive ability in hiring practices.
  • The unique culture at Headspace.
  • The challenges of designing a meditation app.
  • The role of intuition in design and our overreliance on data.
  • What finding umami means to her.
  • Her book in the works on cognitive bias.
  • Self-coherence as a way to help our own cognitive bias.
  • And dreams as a blueprint for reality.


One of my favorite things about being a product designer is meeting other product designers. There is something about the open-mindedness, mindfulness, optimism, and interdisciplinary interests that seem to be a recurring pattern and which make the best product designers a real delight to talk to. And Vicki is no different.


This conversation is one of a dozen or so weekly conversations we already have lined up for you with top designers, thinkers, makers, authors, and activists who are working to change our world for the better. So please follow this podcast on your favorite podcast app, or head over to to subscribe.


And now, let's jump right in with Vicki Tan.




[4:18] Life in the Present

[8:35] Childhood Rebellion

[12:17] A Journey to Behavioral Psychology

[15:15] A Career Path

[19:02] Hiring Decision Factors

[21:38] A Pivot to Designer

[25:35] Lyft, Headspace, and Spotify

[29:25] The Culture at Headspace

[37:04] Designing With Intuition

[40:23] Finding Umami

[47:52] Gentle Chaos

[56:47] Cognitive Bias

[1:05:20] A Short Sermon