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William Van Hecke is me.

I like my art baroque and my design respectful. For a living I try to make software architecturally coherent. Fundamentally I’m a pure field of consciousness; philosophically I’m grateful to have been instantiated in this universe; practically I aim for warmth, discipline, and meaning. Formerly of Chicago, Wisconsin, Seattle, and Silicon Valley; now established in Tokyo, Japan.

It is splendid to have you here!

Microcosmographia is a newsletter thing about honestly trying to understand design and humanity.
Picocosmographia is an outlet for thoughts, mostly impressions of reading material.
Email would be a fine way to contact me.


Fiction writing. I have a long-running secret fiction writing project which is not linked from anywhere and which you will never see! But it is out there. And I’m taking credit for it right here.

Snong. After a lifetime of very gradually accumulating kwipment and being dissatisfied with music apps, I am at last recording my own music (to tape!) with an entirely software-free setup. The results live in a folder that I almost certaintly won’t give you the link to!

Dramatickers is an unofficial English-language fan site for the Japanese band Clammbon. I’ve translated many of their songs from Japanese and subtitled both of their films.


Period and prelude. All spheres of life reached gentle, momentary conclusion; and each has a promising new movement ahead. Committed to moving our family to Tokyo in the coming year.


Refactor. Spent much of this year reconsidering, tidying up, clarifying, concentrating. Similar outputs, but with better inputs and processes.

Let go of almost all of the video games and manga I had been collecting for most of my lifetime. If you know me, you know this was a big deal.

Pretty dang sure I experienced kenshō.




OS Upgrade. Returned from Japan with unusually clear vision; instituted systems to hang on to that.

Adopted the Discipline, a nerdy-monastic approach to spending available time.

Learned purely functional programming with Haskell, because it seemed like an important and true thing to understand. (Then I brought that knowledge back to Python where I feel more at home.)

Pixeling. This happens sporadically when I need an aesthetic outlet, but the link is gone now.


New center. Reset my baseline understanding of what is important and began to formalize a comprehensive system for what to do and why.


Payoff Year. Several years of luck, planning, sacrifice, and patience resulted in all of my major quests concluding successfully. This means less amusing online content for you to look at, but a stable and meaningful foundation for the rest of my life — surely a worthwhile trade.


Year of Major Quests. Much more big-picture, long-term planning and effort than ever before. Investing in the future. Developing a deeper, more universal perspective. Key book: Our Mathematical Universe.

California. In May 2016 I came to Facebook’s Interfaces team to design design systems. It feels like my brain has been on a perpetually accelerating rocket ever since. 🚀

UX Launchpad Book. (Paused) I am deep into writing my second book, a general software design course. This time around it’s web-first, written on my own terms, and great fun.

Pixel Up! was three days talking about design in Johannesburg, two contemplative days on safari, and the beginning of a number of deep friendships.

Japan trip XIII, during which I met Clammbon and Tenniscoats. These events have become symbols of precisely the sort of experience I hope to continue having from time to time, if all goes well.

Project Metafalica. A bunch of us fans created an all-new English version of the PS2 game Ar tonelico 2. I worked on the style guide and translated Chroche’s Cosmosphere and Frelia’s Binary Field from the Japanese script.

Dwarf Fortress resources — Zettel font and Shmolarized theme; for aesthetics nerds who like their inscrutable ascii landscapes to be cute, warm, and chunky. Together they look like this and like this.


Craftsman mindset. This was a year of putting systems and habits in place so that future years can be better. Perspective, rules, relationships, quests, habits, health.

&yetConf was the most meaningful event of my year. I met a crowd of achingly inspiring people; collected new signposts for topics I care deeply about; retreated from my routine to experience strange, surreal things; looked at my life clearly from the outside; added “belonging” as a new keyword by which I consider how my life is going and where I want it to go.

Feminism for Nerds is a collection of educational articles.

Quiet Contemplation is a podcast about video games, Japanese 2D culture, musical discovery, and miscellaneous geekery.

Trails in the Sky SC is a legendary JRPG by the legendary developer Falcom, and I had the honor of playing a small part in its legendary English localization effort. I was part of the volunteer fan team who offered consultation on translation, series lore, and playtesting.

Streaming games. Usually visual novels in Japanese with live interpretation. As I get more tired, the narration and translation get sillier.


Human/brain relationship year. Turned the experience of shipping four more huge app releases on external deadlines into several happy projects about taking care of your brain.

Hi Button was a little yellow hack for helping introverts start conversations, which I helped create.

Design Play. 23 creative people from around the world, selected from hand-written letters, all intimidated by the others’ accomplishments, gathered for a weekend and made friends for life.

Carefree is a tiny custom CSS file you can add to your web browser to make Twitter less of a popularity contest. It hides counts of followers, retweets, faves, et cetera. Version 0.0.2.

Japan trip XII, including Shimokitazawa


Introspection & Discipline. This year really taught me to get things done. Somehow successfully balanced finishing grad school, finishing my book, writing a rush update to my book for iOS 7, shipping four hugely redesigned apps, multiple personal tragedies, and the longest stay in Tokyo since 2002. Key book: Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Grad school. I got me a master’s degree in Human-Centered Design & Engineering from the University of Washington.

3D modeling. Every few years I come back, to see if it has become a sane pursuit. Cinema 4D, then Blender, and most recently Modo. Maybe again when we’re hand-sculpting in VR environments.


Heck year. Grad school continues. Agreed to write a book for some reason. Finished bringing our whole suite of five apps to iPad.

HOXA. A rock and roll band that jammed weekly. It revived my interest in playing live music.

Hardcore Gaming 101: Sakura Taisen. 15,000 words on a truly extraordinary video game series.


Build build build. Started grad school; kept building iPad and Mac apps; tried to figure out public speaking. Gained quite a lot of momentum on the journey of social awareness and self-awareness.

Designing Graceful, Gracious Interfaces for iPad is a purple talk I gave at Voices That Matter Autumn 2010 and Spring 2011, and Øredev 2011.

From Mac to iPhone to iPad and Back is a red-orange talk that I gave at Voices That Matter Autumn 2011 and Øredev 2011.

Japan trip X, including Gacharic Spin & 1000say


iPad. Setting everything else aside and building two huge apps for iPad in the three months between its announcement and its launch was surreal and thrilling. Suddenly we were very much multi-platform, desgining for the good old Mac and for something truly brand-new. Suddenly people wanted to hear me speak about how to design for this thing.

Momo Pax. From 2003 to 2010, Julian Lancaster and I were a game studio. Nowadays we just use the site as a place to post pixel art.

Button Trance is a column about infatuating games. It began at Heisei Democracy, a site I administered back in its heyday, but has since moved to my own blog. Ar tonelico 2; Mana-Khemia; Ar tonelico 3.

Paraplu was a cute arena shooter I made with Julian Lancaster. It was tremendously educational and fun to build a really sophisticated game engine and level editor.


App Store. I was there, man. WWDC 2008 in particular was a heck of an inspiring and creative time. OmniFocus for Mac and then OmniFocus for iPhone, which even won an Apple Design Award. Japan trips VIII and IX.

I ran half of a two-DM 4th Edition D&D campaign in an original setting, played in a theater with projected digital maps. In the other half, I played Cross, a Tiefling paladin with monarchial aspirations.

Bass tabs. Sometimes I try to figure out how to play obscure songs on the bass, and document my findings.

I built an arcade stick controller from parts and wood for playing fighting games.


Build build build. Accidentally fell into my dream job as UX Lead at the Omni Group. Shipped some Mac apps. Learned a lot about making software. Went to WWDCs and Macworlds. Blogged a lot, wrote a lot of code, failed at NaNoWriMo, passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 2, saw a Stevenote in person. Japan visits V, VI, and VII.

Greeneyes. From 2002 to 2005, I wrote and published a webcomic about genetically-modified kids living on Mars in the 23rd century.

I ran a 3rd Edition D&D campaign using adapted 2nd Edition rules from the wonderfully surreal Spelljammer setting.


Seattle. Moved across the country at a moment’s notice in an attempt to get hired at my dream company, The Omni Group. It worked!


Nocturnal year. Worked the night shift monitoring batch processes and mainframes. Stayed sane by replacing all my Perl knowledge with Python and pretended I was still in Japan by playing lots of imported Dreamcast games.


Life in Japan. I lived in Tokyo for most of 2002, and it hasn’t let go of me since.

Xenosaga Madness Project. A complete translation and gameplay guide to the PS2 game Xenosaga Episode I. You can also hop straight to the guide, which in retrospect is kind of an impressive document.

(out of context) is a lo-fi photo-journal that begins in Tokyo in 2002. My own personal Instagram, a decade too early.

Sakura Taisen essay. I always liked video games. But when I discovered Sakura Taisen it turned me into a whole new kind of geek. This is an account of that adventure.

I played Ashtray Wilkinson, a bumbling dhampir and my first long-running RP character, in a freeform urban fantasy roleplaying campaign run by @CulturalGeek wherever we could find space to sit around Shinjuku.


Adolescence. Played in bands in the Chicago punk scene. Built my first website. Joined a close-knit online artists’ community that still chats every day. Got involved in anime fandom when that meant mailing around hand-subtitled VHS tapes. Built websites and databases at a dot-com-bubble electronic trading company and other companies on the Chicago Board of Trade. Little from this era survives on the web today… thankfully.


The sixth and final revision of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy is published. Burton wrote, rewrote, and revised it over the course of decades, the work itself not coming to rest until 11 years after the author’s death.

Now you’re at the bottom of my web site.