Interview with Mengqiu Hu for Shroom and Calmi

Chunxuan Yu | London Design Awards
Interview with Chunxuan Yu for MINA – Your Health Expert
February 27, 2024
A Paramount Global Spectacle of Musical Excellence at the 2024 Grammy Awards
February 29, 2024

Mengqiu Hu

Mengqiu Hu, known as Freda, is a product designer experienced in enterprise UX, consumer products, and IoT. Her passion for creating visually appealing and innovative content was sparked early and honed during her Computer Science studies.

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

My name is Mengqiu Hu, a.k.a. Freda and I'm a product designer with diverse experiences in enterprise UX, consumer product, and IoT.

At the moment, I am actively involved in the creation of business tools at Pinterest. In my capacity as a product designer, my responsibilities encompass fostering user empathy, developing prototypes for concepts, refining solutions through iteration, and meticulously crafting designs.

In addition to my design expertise, I have also taken on roles as both a product manager and a software engineer. This distinctive interdisciplinary background empowers me to approach design from a well-rounded perspective, coupled with a strategic mindset.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

From an early age, I've had a strong interest in producing content that is both visually attractive and innovative. This interest grew and took shape during my time as a Computer Science undergraduate. I realized that for a technology product to be truly influential, it must do more than just introduce technical advancements; it needs to solve real user issues and improve the human experience.

This realisation ignited my enthusiasm for exploring the complexities of human needs, and I found great satisfaction in developing solutions that connect technology with people, providing outstanding user experiences.

Consequently, this exploration led me to a rewarding career as a product designer. In this role, I am able to merge my passion for design with my technical expertise to create products that are not only efficient but also deeply connect with users on an emotional level.

3Tell us more about your agency/company, job profile, and what you do.

As a Product Designer at Pinterest, my main responsibility is to develop business tools specifically designed to help advertisers and merchants achieve their objectives on Pinterest.

My approach to design is systematic, interactive, and visual, aiming to resolve complex B2B challenges with refined solutions. I manage the entire lifecycle of the user experience, from gathering insights about users to navigating through stages of ideation, refinement, handoff, and launch.

Working collaboratively is fundamental to my role; I engage closely with engineering, product management, and user research teams to devise impactful, user-focused, and data-informed solutions that effectively engage our varied audience.

4What does “design” mean to you?

For me, design transcends mere visual appeal. It embodies a deliberate, user-focused, and inventive methodology.

Fundamentally, design is driven by the necessity to tackle challenges and offer solutions. This applies to the development of physical objects, digital platforms, or entire systems, with the goal of delivering efficient answers to problems.

Design places a strong emphasis on the end-user, focusing on grasping the nuances of user behavior and requirements to develop offerings that are practical, pleasant, and easy to use. Moreover, design is inherently creative, entailing the extensive exploration of fresh concepts and diverse options.

5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

I have a profound interest in designs that foster well-being and drive positive transformation through solutions centered around human needs. I am convinced of design's capacity to mould and impact the world significantly.

As designers, I view it as our civic duty to use this influence for the betterment of society. This means developing products or services that have a beneficial effect on people's lives, inspiring individuals to rethink their views and engage in constructive actions. It highlights the principle that design transcends mere visual appeal, aiming instead to generate significant and enduring effects on people, communities, and the environment.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?

Echoing Steve Jobs' sentiment, "Design is not just about the appearance and sensation. It's about functionality." The essence of effective design lies in prioritising users and delivering straightforward, targeted solutions that meet fundamental user requirements.

Additionally, elements such as simplicity, uniformity, and accessibility are key to improving the user experience. Furthermore, an exemplary design is distinguished by its rigorous focus on detail, upholding high standards of design quality.

7Congratulations! As the winner of the London Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

I feel incredibly honoured to have won the London Design Awards and be acknowledged by a platform that celebrates design excellence. This achievement goes beyond a personal triumph—it is a recognition and validation of my creativity, design quality and innovation in the design field by respected members of the design community and industry professionals.

This recognition greatly boosts my confidence and motivates me to continue push the boundaries of design. I am eager to embrace new challenges that not only advance user experiences but also contribute positively to the world through impactful design.

8Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 London Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?


Shroom is a digital tool designed to enhance real-time connections between children who live apart from their parents and their families, promoting open dialogue and reinforcing familial ties.

This project originates from a deep awareness of the emotional difficulties encountered by families separated because of urban migration. Witnessing numerous children in my rural hometown growing up away from their parents sparked the motivation to develop a solution to narrow this emotional divide and cultivate stronger relationships.

The chosen solution acts as a concrete link, offering a live, bidirectional communication pathway. It grants children the ability to share their emotions via mood updates and voice messages, ensuring their genuine feelings are acknowledged and comprehended.

Furthermore, it allows parents to maintain contact with their distant children and address their emotional needs swiftly via a specialised mobile application. Beyond facilitating interaction, it deepens the emotional connection between parents and children, mitigating feelings of isolation and neglect.


The swift tempo of contemporary life has elevated mental health to a pivotal issue. Calmi emerges as a cutting-edge app for stress monitoring and control, aiming to improve emotional insight and lead users to a peaceful mindset. It tackles the difficulties that numerous people encounter in stress management, such as irregular tracking of emotional states and the absence of efficient strategies for reflection.

Calmi's dedication to a design approach centred on the user, its harmonisation with the latest technological advancements, and its adherence to evidence-based practices distinguish it. The app is designed not just to provide an all-encompassing approach to handling stress but also to make a positive impact on the long-term emotional health of its users.

9What were the main challenges you faced during the design process, and how did you overcome them?


The biggest challenge with the Shroom was navigating the unique environmental and social context of the target audience. Addressing the specific needs of left-behind children in rural areas, where conventional communication tools often fall short, required a thoughtful and culturally sensitive approach.

Additionally, the integration of physical, voice, and digital interactivity added a layer of complexity, requiring careful consideration to ensure the product effectively addressed the emotional needs of the users in a tangible and engaging manner. Balancing these interaction modals to create a cohesive and user-friendly experience was pivotal to the success of the project.


The primary challenge was to reduce the friction associated with emotion logging, thereby boosting user motivation. The incorporation of multi-channel input options and AI voice analysis emerged as a groundbreaking solution, alleviating the burden of manual logging. This innovative approach not only significantly simplified the emotional tracking process but also made it more engaging and accessible for users.

Another crucial challenge involved not only fostering users' comprehension of their emotional well-being but also instigating positive changes. To tackle this, we embraced a scientific approach, incorporating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)-based exercises. These exercises empower users to adapt their thought processes and engage in practices that facilitate positive transformations, aligning with Calmi's mission to not just track but actively contribute to users' emotional well-being.

10What are your top three (3) favourite things about our industry?


The design industry shines as a model of inclusivity, embracing a rich diversity of viewpoints, skills, and experiences. Its collaborative essence opens the door for a broad spectrum of ideas, creating a space where the distinct contributions of all are appreciated. Such inclusivity not only fuels creativity but also renders the design community a lively and evolving arena.


A thrilling characteristic of the industry is its orientation towards the future. Design is in a perpetual state of evolution, adapting to future demands by integrating new technologies, trends, and shifts in society. This progressive mindset compels designers to remain leaders in innovation, turning each project into a chance to influence the future.


Creativity forms the core essence of the industry. It provides the liberty to delve into new ideas, play with varied notions, and stretch the limits of traditional thought, serving as an endless fountain of motivation.

From designing visually appealing artworks to tackling intricate challenges or transforming user experiences, the innate creativity within the industry guarantees that each project is a chance for breakthroughs and personal articulation.

11Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

Sustainable design practices:

The design sector is increasingly adopting environmentally friendly approaches, with a focus on sustainability and circular design principles. Designers are at the forefront of this shift, taking into account the life cycle of products, the materials used, and their environmental effects, aiming to minimise waste and carbon emissions.

Multi-modal experiences:

In the coming 5 to 10 years, design is set to evolve across various interfaces, adopting a multi-modal strategy. With technological progress, designers will focus on crafting fluid experiences that span across augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and voice interfaces. The key will be on ensuring adaptability and making these experiences accessible in response to changing user interaction patterns.

Integration of AI in design:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the design field through the use of machine learning and algorithms. I foresee a future where designers work alongside AI for analysing data, personalising user experiences, and automating tasks. The ethical implications of AI deployment are becoming an important factor in the industry's development.

12What advice do you have for aspiring designers who want to create award-winning designs?

First, I advise budding designers to engage deeply with design topics that have a profound impact, paying close attention to the social, environmental, and ethical dimensions of their projects.

Crafting designs that positively affect society, tackle real-world issues, or improve user experiences can leave a lasting mark and greatly improve the chances of being recognised by notable design competitions.

Second, be open to embracing new technologies and skills. Competing in design contests offers a valuable chance to explore and acquire new knowledge.

For example, consider how AI might boost design efficiency and spark creativity. Don't confine yourself to certain procedures or mediums. Investigate new design forms and channels to convey ideas and address challenges creatively. This willingness to learn and adopt new technologies can vastly improve your design skills and distinguish you in the ever-evolving design landscape.

13What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

Medium is a platform that hosts a plethora of articles on design, user experience, and industry trends. Many experienced designers share insights, case studies, and tutorials, making it a valuable resource for staying updated and learning from others' experiences.

Many prestigious companies or design agencies also publish design blogs to share their work and learnings. This provides a unique opportunity to understand how these excellent design teams approach and solve complex real-world design problems.

Online learning resources such as Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, or Skillshare offer many design courses and tutorials taught by industry professionals or top institutions. Taking these courses is a great way to learn design and enhance your design skills in a more systematic way.

14Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
Apart from design, I've been exploring other outlets for artistic creativity. Lately, my focus has been on creative coding, which uses programming languages to create visual art, interactive environments, and multimedia experiences. This journey enables me to merge my technical abilities with my enthusiasm for artistic creativity, unveiling new opportunities to produce digital art pieces.
15Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Don Norman has significantly influenced my approach to design. His seminal work, "The Design of Everyday Things," has played a pivotal role in forming my design insights. His teachings stress the importance of crafting items that are not only aesthetically appealing but also profoundly practical, improve user experience, and naturally fit into the everyday routines of people.

His views have motivated me to focus on the functional and user-oriented facets of design, shaping my methodology towards devising solutions that transcend mere appearance and genuinely enrich users' lives.

16What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

My secret to success lies in the courage to attempt and the absence of fear in facing failure. Welcoming difficulties and venturing beyond one’s comfort zone are the grounds for genuine progress. It's the persistence and toughness that push you ahead, transforming obstacles into possibilities and failures into valuable insights.

Therefore, pursue your goals with boldness, keep a steadfast resolve, and let every encounter, whether it ends in triumph or not, play a part in shaping a superior version of yourself.

Winning Entries

Shroom | 2023

Shroom | Mengqiu Hu

In a world where geographical distances often strain familial connections, Shroom emerges as a beacon of hope and innovation, offering … (Read more at London Design Awards)

Calmi - Stress tracking and management companion | 2023

Calmi | Mengqiu Hu

In today's fast-paced, mental well-being becomes a critical concern. The never-ending stream of information and the demands of … (Read more at London Design Awards)

Mengqiu Hu

Mengqiu Hu, known as Freda, is a product designer experienced in enterprise UX, consumer products, and IoT. Her passion for creating visually appealing and innovative content was sparked early and honed during her Computer Science studies.

Read more about Mengqiu Hu's interview for the 2023 NY Product Design Awards!