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380: Designing WhatsApp ft. Priyanka Kodikal

January 13, 2021

This week, we catch up with Priyanka Kodikal, a design manager leading consumer design at WhatsApp. We talk all about her journey as a designer, and what it's like building WhatsApp. In The Sidebar, we answer a simple question: should designers learn Figma in 2020?

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The Sidebar:

The Sidebar is an exclusive weekly segment for our Patreon supporters. You can subscribe starting at $1 per month for access to full episodes going forward! Sign up at

In this week's Sidebar, we answer a listener question from our Twitter DMs: Would it be a good idea to begin transitioning to Figma as my primary design tool, or do you think it matters as long as I'm producing quality work and shipping features at my current job? Would learning Figma help future-proof me? I just need to be sold on the idea and I figure you two would have good insights as Figma users.

Follow up:

  • Divya Tak tweeted: one of the things that I feel like why it's easier to praise someone who just does the work is because creative professionals have a myth that "doing the work" is enough. So we find it easier to praise those people. And I also think (this is a bit darker) but it's easier to be not threatened by someone who has 100 instagram followers but makes art everyday, vs someone who makes art once a week but each piece gets over a thousand likes.
  • Michael Knepprath tweeted: the bit about your writing voice changing - I try to fight this every time and mostly fail every time, I think. I want my posts to feel like longform tweets!


This week we caught up with Priyanka Kodikal, a design manager leading consumer design at WhatsApp. Before WhatsApp, she was a designer at Facebook Groups and Ads, a product designer at Evernote, and spent the years before working in the non-profit sector.

In this interview we talk about Priyanka's path through companies and teams to eventually land at WhatsApp. We discuss the design culture of WhatsApp, how they build products for so many different kinds of people around the world, why WhatsApp looks the way it does, and so much more.

Follow Priyanka on Twitter and share a tweet if you enjoyed this episode!

Cool Things:

  • Brian shared Shape Up, a product development book by the team at Basecamp. If you are interested in learning more about product strategy, this will probably be useful for you.
  • Marshall shared The Pedestrian, a creative 2.5D side scrolling puzzle platform. You enter a wild 3D world playing as a character on a public sign. It's short, but only $20!
  • Priyanka shared two things:
    • bon appétit's website, which is just lovely and has a really neat search flow that returns possible recipes given a set of ingredients you have on hand.
    • Steve Jobs' lost 1995 interview, a 70 minute bootleg of an old interview with lots of product and design wisdom.

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