Aaron Zemach
portfolio & assorted work
I love creating awesome experiences & inspiring content.
Use the tabs above to learn more about my projects as a User Experience Engineer at Google, my work as a writer and improviser, or my various other interests.
I currently work at Google UX on the G Suite Editors team (mainly supporting Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides).
Prior to that, I recieved my Masters Degree in Computer Science with a focus in HCI.

UX Design

At Google, I combine my technical background and user-centric design skills to bring a unique UX perspective to key projects. A few launches where I was UX/interaction design lead:
  • Google Pickers redesign (Lead UX), including the Google Profile Picker & image pickers in Gmail, Google Forms, and Google Hangouts.
  • Keyboard navigation in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides Android apps with a Bluetooth keyboard
  • Several features launching H1 & H2 2019

Prototyping

Using HTML/CSS/JS, Chrome Extensions, and more, I build high-fidelity prototypes that allow our team to deepen understanding in key areas. While many of the coolest prototypes are for experimental work that has not been announced, a few past highlights include:
  • Automatic slide layout in Google Slides Explore
  • Improved Charting UI in Google Sheets
  • Content suggestion in Google Docs Explore
  • Dozens of experimental features still in development

Design Process

Improving design methods is one of my passions. At Google, I've developed new tools & processes to help design teams come up with their best ideas, faster. I also frequently do internal speaking and teaching around improving design process, including:
  • "Fundamentals of Brainstorming" course (ongoing, course creator)
  • "Playing Design" (January 2019), on the absence of play in design process, and a framework for how to reintroduce it.
  • "From Brain-dump to Brainstorm: Going Beyond the Obvious" (October 2018, with Sareeka Malhotra), on removing bias & pushing boundaries during ideation.
  • "Why Prototypers are the Ultimate Influencers" (April 2018), on how a prototype is worth a thousand meetings.
  • "Building Innovation Culture" (Feb 2018, with Nina Xu), on lessons learned implementing culture change via design process.


Research

  • For my master's thesis, I showed that designing tutorials as games significantly increases independent learning for students. More insights. (Advisor: Caitlin Kelleher)
  • Prior to that, I was co-author on a paper about creating scalable, automated mentorship systems for young coders.
  • Patents & Inventions:
    • US9703763B1: Automatic document citations by utilizing copied content for candidate sources. Link
    • (Pending) US 2018/0150446: Systems and methods for applying layout to documents (co-author) Link
    • (Defensive Publication) Data selection using gesture and drag functionality. Link
In my free time, I enjoy writing both fiction and non-fiction. I'm particularly interested in how new technology can be explored using timeless art forms. My White Whale is an in-progress rewrite of The Emoji Movie into a piece of high art (this is not a joke).

Theater

  • The End of Commercials: A 45-minute piece dissecting the last commercial that was ever filmed, ever. (July 2017, PIT Loft NYC)
  • One Pacific Midnight Central: A Familial Thriller. The lives of an author, autonomous robot specialist, Pharma CEO, and TV host intersect in dangerous ways. (December 2014, St. Louis)
  • This is Me, Wearing a Hat: In a society obsessed with self-surveillance, the young bureaucrats who must review all of the footage face a clash of personalities. Winner of the A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Award (September 2012, St. Louis)

More writing

I have been performing & studying longform improvisation since 2010, from New York to Chicago to St. Louis. I enjoy playing characters who are very agreeable.

Current groups

  • Darkness Falls: A 360 degree, immersive improvised experience that extends beyond the stage with a mix of grounded familiarity and chaos. The show has been described as being "like a David Lynch film" and "a complete fever dream" and we couldn't be happier. We perform at the Magnet Theater and PIT Loft in NYC most months—check out our Facebook or Instagram for the latest information.

Former groups

  • Two Buttons (NYC)
  • Business Clown (NYC)
  • Suspicious of Whistlers (St. Louis)
As long as I've been able to program, I've been creating games, experimenting with creative coding, and building digital toys.

Games

  • Reunion (2016) : For Ludum Dare 37 ("One Room"). A copyright-safe version of everyone's favorite yellow pill-gobbler confronts his past. Play on itch.io.
  • The Mechanical Age (2016): For Myst Jam. You can't run away in a yacht. Download on itch.io.
  • Older Flash games here.
  • Also check out my writing and research about games.

Etc.

  • FoodHype (2018): Sometimes it feels like food trends are just getting made up at random. So why not join the fun? Written up by Food & Wine magazine and Glitch 2018 year-in-review. Generate your own at glitch.me
  • I've also got some old projects open-sourced on GitHub, including code to reconstruct 3D skull models from an MRI scan, and an analyzer that can recommend refactoring patterns for Python code.
David Rees once said: "It's always good to have a hobby where there's no way to monetize it." For me, that's music.
True story: In high school, I was considering majoring in music and becoming a professional composer. Then the dean of a top music school told me that the fact that I enjoyed jazz, classical, and songwriting meant that I was "confused." Now, the entire ouvre of contemporary composers under 40 has vindicated me, and as a consolation I continue to make music to please myself.

Music