Hi! 👋🏽 I'm May-Li Khoe. Thanks for stopping by! 💖

I work to help people foster their own creativity and empowerment. Most of my career has been about inventing new ways for humans to interact with computers.

My full-time jobs have been primarily in design and r&d as a designer and researcher, but also as a prototyper, engineer, game developer, director and VP. I consider myself an artist, DJ, dancer, and musician. I grew up at the intersection of four cultures.



🌱

Until the summer of 2019, I worked at a nonprofit called Khan Academy. I was there for about five years.

While there, I founded and co-directed a Long-term Research group with my friend Andy Matuschak. The group published some interactive articles you can check out:
- Playful Worlds of Creative Math
- New Ways to Play with Numbers
- Building complex reasoning skills online through open-ended activities
We also had a blog. Here are some of my posts.

I also served as the VP of Design. I grew the design team and set up a design management team. Together, we established a marketing and brand team, kickstarted a new design system, launched a rebrand, established User Research as a discipline, hired our first UX Writer, and launched several successful new products. You can read more about the team here, and about my departure here.

🍎

Before Khan Academy, I was at Apple for over seven years.

While at Apple, I was lucky to work on a tiny part of the very first iPhone, among other things. I developed the first mobile apps back when that was the answer to third party app development, alongside Helen Ma and Brian Dote. I was also in the room when Steve Jobs gave the team a very stern talking-to following the MobileMe launch.

After working on the first version of Find My iPhone and the beginning of Find my Friends, I moved to the Human Interface Device Prototyping team. There, I designed and prototyped brand new ways for humans to poke at machines (aka “human input” or “computer-human interaction” or “interaction design.”) I helped invent new technology across all of Apple’s hardware, such as Apple’s “Force Touch” and Taptic Engine. My explorations helped justify and refine the development of the iPad mini, iPad Pro, and Apple Pencil. Some of the UI concepts we worked on were pretty neat. Others I have mixed feelings about. Maybe I’m supposed to talk about my patents, but I’ll leave that to people who are super into that.

As a side project, I designed and shipped a transportation app that makes Apple commuters' lives easier. It was a collaboration with my friend Joey Hagedorn. If you commute to Apple today, I hope it still makes your life a little better. I also hope you’ve found all the easter eggs.

👩🏽‍💻

Before Apple, I worked at a few other places including Microsoft, IBM Research, Leapfrog, and an agency called Interdimensions. I might have accidentally designed the origins of Songsmith. We’ll never know for sure. I got paid to make a Windows Media Player skin for Afroman. I developed Disney Princess learning games. Once, I had to design a website for sewer system manuals. I have a lot of stories.

🐣

In ancient history, I studied Computer Science and Engineering at a MIT. I did undergraduate research with Pattie Maes at the MIT Media Lab, and graduate research with Julie Dorsey at the Laboratory for Computer Science (now CSAIL).

🌎

As of the fall of 2019, I’m taking some time to recharge and accompany my partner on his sabbatical around the world. By “recharge” I mean sleep enough, absorb what life is like in different places, and work on side projects, which aren’t really side projects anymore.

✏️

A few years ago, I co-founded a tiny company called Scribble. We make a collaborative whiteboard. It lets people draw together over the distance. Despite being useful for very serious business, the app also features glitter, unicorns, and a surprisingly fun eraser. My partner Bridger and I are really at the start of what’s possible, but the tutors, mathematicians, developers and designers who use our app seem to really dig it so far. Check it out on the App Store here.

🎮

I’ve also been working on a little something for the upcoming Playdate game console off and on for a few years. It’s a collaboration with Andy. It’s also a surprise. As a result. I’ve been learning how to make teeny tiny black-and-white pixel art.

🎉 Sometimes, I'm up to some other stuff.

🎶

I spin music under the name DJ China Tu Madre with La Pelanga Collective which I co-founded out of Oakland with some friends in 2008. We've had residences at the Brick and Mortar and Oakland Museum of California, and performed at the New Parish, Starline Social Club, Bissap Baobab, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Life is Living Festival, and more. We've curated bands and opened for Celso Piña, La Santa Cecilia, Las Cafeteras, and Chicano Batman, to name a few. We also had a brief stint with making a podcast, Pelanga en La Sala. No, I do not spin EDM (yes, people often ask.)

As La Pelanga, we love collaborating with the People's Kitchen Collective to make immersive educational culinary experiences at the intersection of art and activism. Two of my favorite projects are The Wall project and a 500-person meal in West Oakland inspired by the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program.

🤸🏽

I am a relentless studier of human cultures. I love how music and dance are such powerful ways to connect people from all over the globe. I'm also fascinated by how they influence thinking, travel and evolve constantly, and survive hundreds of years against all odds.

I've learned to dance in a wide variety of styles that looked impossible to me from the outset. I performed professionally frequently until around 2010. Now I mostly dance for myself.

Most recently, I've also been learning to play music from the Colombian Pacific region. Occasionally, I sing and play music in public, but extremely casually. I've played at the Red Poppy Art House, Revolution Cafe, and Artillery Art Gallery.

🌠

I'm a friend and lab family of Dynamicland (formerly Communications Design Group) where I've collaborated with Bret Victor and the extended community. I worked on some prototypes, including a numeracy toy for early learners, an interactive Serengeti diorama, and something that transformed the lab's ambience via music and lighting.

You can read more about some of the work here.

Paula Te and I collaborate on an experimental project that brings together food, culture, and the dynamic medium, called 50 Years. We put together physical-digital experiences at Dynamicland that let us engage with our family’s stories. It included a modular system that allowed CCA students to build our own family-history exploration prototypes.

🧩

I'm serving as an advisor to Workbench, a Knight Foundation grantee and integrated data journalism platform that makes it easy to assemble and manipulate data without any coding. It's critical to spread understanding and power over data, and Workbench is dedicated to that mission.

In 2016, I played a bit part in the Season 1 of the North Pole Show, a satire about gentrification in North Oakland. The show is still going strong. You should check it out.

In the fall of 2015, I was an artist in the Cultural Incubator at Gray Area Gallery.

In 2014, I spent a month playing at the intersection between fashion and computation by learning how to generate things to wear at Eyebeam in New York. The resulting work has been on exhibition several times since then. In December 2019, it was on display at the Maison Hamel-Bruneau in Quebec City.

In 2013, I was supposed to be in the launch video for Code.org, but the PR folk where I worked didn’t agree with that idea. Instead, my footage is in a few other videos to encourage kids to create with code. I also helped explain what makes a computer a computer. You can watch this video on the plane if you fly Alaska Airlines.

In 2012, I was an artist in a field of inquiry called the Future Soul Collective at YBCA.

I also styled the founders of Radio Ambulante for their Kickstarter video back in 2012.

I was very briefly a dance aerobics instructor in Seattle: the kind that wears a headset and yells “5-6-7-8!”.

Maybe one day I’ll put together a very weird resume with all this stuff in it.

🙊 Occasionally, I'm asked to speak in public.

I wasn't allowed to give talks while I was at Apple, but since then I've spoken at a few places, like Layers Design Conference, Creative Mornings, Framer Loupe, and Uenoland. I've especially loved speaking to students, which I’ve done at CCA, CMU and UC Berkeley. It turns out I’ve given 23 talks in the last five years or so.

I've been on the Design Details podcast four times: on my own, with my research partner Andy Matuschak, live at Combine for issue 250, and with Chikezie Ejiasi.

I’ve also been on the Afrofuturist podcast with Ahmed Best, Rene Ritchie’s podcast twice, and Unco with Timothy Buck.

Massive thanks to all these amazing hosts and organizers. If you’re reading this and interested in having me speak, run a workshop, or chat with you in a podcast, you can contact me at mayli at maylikhoe.com. I’d be very grateful if you include as much information up front as you can about time commitment and compensation.

💖 Thanks for reading!

I'm dedicated to helping build a vibrant and diverse community of inventors who know how to listen, understand, and question — as well as plan, build and iterate. I believe that we can find new ways that move beyond the dominant systems that led to marginalization and imbalance in the first place. I daydream about joyful ways to subvert the status quo.

I'm very aware that nobody can make great change by themselves, regardless of how much our society likes to portray individual heroes.

Are you an artist, designer, prototyper, educator, tinkerer, person-who-doesn't-fit-into-a-category, who aims not only to hone your craft and build great things, but also design the experience people have collaborating with you? Want to build together? Or, are you an organizer of things and want me to co-conspire? Feel free to reach out! I’m not obsessively on top of my email, so response time varies, but thank you in advice for your patience.

mayli at maylikhoe.com
@mayli