Minimal Design Setup in Toronto, Canada

“I try to limit what I have on my desk but it gets pretty cluttered by the end of the week”

Trish Ramos
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Name: Matt Tran

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Occupation: UX/UI Designer

Room size: 9,3 m² (100 ft²)

Cost of the setup: $500 excluded tech ($4K if you include laptop, monitor, keyboard, etc.)

Social media: Instagram, YouTube


Hey, Matt! Tell us a bit about yourself

Hey! My name is Matt and I’m a UX/UI designer by day, and a content creator during all the other hours.

Growing up, I’ve always had a passion for design and technology. I played a lot of video games such as MapleStory and CS:GO.

I watched a lot of anime (my favourite being the Gundam series) and messed about with graphic design in Photoshop.

I went to school for Civil Engineering and absolutely hated it. In my third year of school, I realised I wanted to work in tech, and after graduating I put in a lot of effort to make this happen.

A UI/UX designer Matt Tran from Toronto, Canada
Matt spent a lot of hours after work studying UX/UI — from YouTube tutorials to practising the methods with fictitious designs

Eventually, I made my way to where I am today.

I’ve been fortunate enough to design and create consumer-focused solutions in different industries such as social media, e-commerce, fintech, medtech, and customer support.

During the time of this interview, I work for an airline company based in Toronto.

My role is to help design the experiences around mobile apps.

The main priority right now is to deliver the minimal viable product in time for when we start flying again.

In my spare time, I am focusing on building my YouTube page, where I attempt to merge cinematics and food, in a comedic format.

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Can you describe your home setup?

Item Model
Monitor Dell
Laptop Razer Blade 15
Keyboard IDOBAO ID80 with DROP + Invyr Holy Panda Switches
Mouse Logitech MX Master 2
Headphones AirPods Pro
Action figure SD Gundam

My workspace isn’t extravagant by any means. It’s a nice minimal budget setup.

I try to limit what I have on my desk but it gets pretty cluttered by the end of the week.

My setup is powered by Razer Blade 15in 2021. I was on a Macbook before but because I edit a lot of videos, I needed more power.

Most designers prefer MacOS. But, considering the advancement in software, all my tools — Adobe Suite and Figma — are now available on Windows.

I barely notice the difference aside from the lack of AirDrop… but I can live with that trade-off.

For my peripherals, I have a custom mechanical keyboard which I’ve sourced parts from all Amazon, AliExpress, r/mechanicalkeyboards, etc.

The mouse I'm using is the Logitech MX Master 2. I love the ergonomics. I have extremely big hands, and no other mouse feels and works as well for me as this one.

In the corner of my desk, there are little Gundam figures which are a nice momentum from each of my trips to Japan.

I can’t wait for the day I can return there and visit the other regions, as I’ve only been to the main spots such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. I’d love to visit the northern regions such as Hokkaido or Sapporo.

Gundam is a Japanese sci-fi media franchise created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise
Gundam is a Japanese sci-fi media franchise created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise. Giant robots fight against each other in a space war within seven parallel, interconnected timelines

On sunny mornings I get a lot of joy sitting/standing at my desk while listening to lo-fi music and sipping on my coffee, it’s very therapeutic.

At night, when I close my blinds and turn on the LEDs, the entire space transforms into a nice cosy atmosphere — I can unwind and play Valorant with my homies.

The goal for my desk was to be configured in a way so that all the cables are tucked away and hidden nicely under the table. So when I’m standing nothing is hanging.

The setup has evolved over the years. The most notable changes would have to be the giant topographic desk mat (I love the feel and textured look it gives to my workspace), the black wooden laptop riser (the space under gives my notebooks a place to live), and my custom mechanical keyboard — it’s such an enjoyable typing experience.

Eventually, I would like to expand the current width of my desk which is 55 inches (140 cm). With an even wider tabletop, I do find what I currently have just a little small. I do a lot of voice-overs for my videos so I would like to get a boom arm that I can easily move in and out when I need it.

What’s your favourite item on your desk?

My favourite part of my setup would have to be my custom mechanical keyboard.

It’s an extremely geeky piece of technology but I love it.

I developed an interest in mechanical keyboards with my first being the HyperX Alloy FPS Pro model. While it was fun it just wasn’t satisfying and I’ve always known about the custom mechs.

Eventually one day I decided to go for it, never looked back since.

I got the keyboard case (ID80) from AliExpress. The 75% keyboard layout as it’s super compact, but not too compact compared to a 60% keyboard.

The mechanical key switches I am using are the Drop Holypandas, lubed and filmed.

Finally, the keycaps are also from AliExpress, sold by a vendor under the name of KPRepublic.

I am enjoying the accented red Esc / Enter keys, the Esc is cherry blossom and the enter is a Koi fish.

The total cost of the keyboard was around $300.

It’s a steep price to pay, but because I spend so much time on my computer, typing, editing, playing games, I’ve gotten a lot of usage out of it.

What does your typical day look like?

Thanks to the pandemic I’ve been able to work from home. So my new sleep schedule has gotten pretty bad, but my typical day starts at 8 am and ends at midnight.

The first thing I do every morning when I get out of bed is take a hot shower and rinse off with cold water, for that extra jolt of energy.

After my shower, I head down to the kitchen and begin brewing that sweet cup of drip coffee, hot during winter, and cold during summer.

I'm a big coffee drinker, my favourite method to brew is drip using my Hario V60.

While that’s going I like to check up on my social media: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, as well as look at the US Stock Exchange pre-market/news.

Around 9 am I usually get back to my desk to start working my day job. Every morning I begin prioritising my daily tasks in a physical notebook I keep on my desk.

I try to find time between daily standups and team meetings to do work (but we all know that struggle of too many meetings).

Matt's home office workspace at night
Matt's home office workspace at night

During work hours, I try to stand when I’m doing simpler tasks but sit when I need to grind out some work for an extended period of time.

My workdays are usually packed with a lot of team meetings with developers and product managers. These involve a lot of ideation and concept testing, as well as delivering the final solution back to development for it to be built.

After hours, I like to plan out my content strategy for the upcoming weeks. I also write filming scripts and prep myself for the weekend as that’s when I usually work on creating content.

Your tips for working from home?

Working from home has been a super interesting challenge.

There are a lot of great videos on YouTube, where creators who had been WFH for years before the pandemic share their strategies — so full credits to them.

Matt's home office workspace during the day
Matt's home office workspace during the day

The key takeaways that I’ve applied to my own habits would be the following:

  1. Try to have a morning routine even though you're not commuting into an office anymore. This helps you feel more awake and ready to take on the day; typically involves showering, eating breakfast, and wearing outside clothes.
  2. Go for walks during the day if you can. If you’re like me and you use your bedroom as your workspace this helps reset your mental state throughout the day. Plus some fresh air is always good for the creative mind.
  3. Nothing worse than starting the day at a messy workstation. Keep your workspace tidy, reset your space so that it’s ready to go for the next day.
  4. After you finish your day job, spend a couple of hours break away from your computer so that it doesn’t feel like you’ve spent the entire day at your desk.
  5. Keep a pitcher of water at your desk. Not only is drinking water good for you, but more water means the more times you need to get up and go to the bathroom. A great reminder to get up and move.

We’re a reader-supported publication. This article might contain affiliate links. It means we may receive a commission if you click a link and buy a product that our maker has recommended. The interview was done independently.

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