Torin Jones

User Experience Researcher, Advanced Technologies

A cartoon-style illustration of a smiling man, with a shaved head, wearing a blue crew-neck sweater.

Illustration by Michael Cho

Adobe Design is a large team. We work across products, processes, and tools in different cities, countries, time zones, and cultures and celebrate each other whenever we have the opportunity. Our Profiles are a way to introduce the bright and brilliant folks on our team to the external design community. Spend some time getting to know them.

Which historical/fictional character would you most like to meet?

I would love to meet James Baldwin. Of course, Baldwin achieved fame as a gifted writer whose works beautifully and painfully captured many facets of the human experience. Notes of a Native Son sits squarely at the top of my favorite literary works. Baldwin’s essay on life as a Black foreigner in a mountaintop village in Switzerland presents one of the most intriguing, relatable, and heart-braking reflections of what it means to be (un)welcome in a new place. His 1965 debate (with William Buckley) at the Cambridge Union in the UK also captivated me.

Baldwin’s combination of keen insight, eloquence, and undeniable passion transformed how I think about human communication. Just standing in the Cambridge Union during graduate school gave me goosebumps. In the 1970s, he moved to Saint-Paul-De-Vence, France to escape the racism and homophobia that tormented him in the US. I often think about him hosting friends like Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder at his home in France, and imagine the amazing conversations, reflections, and friendships that must have shaped his life and outlook. He was truly a force.

What's the most useful thing you learned in school?

I studied cultural anthropology in graduate school. My research focused on the experiences of unaccompanied foreign minors from West Africa seeking asylum in southern Italy. Ethnographic research is challenging and peculiar in many ways, requiring anthropologists to immerse themselves in other lives and worlds. The best advice I received before I moved to Sicily for research was to “look in unexpected places.” Some burning questions may be addressed when we show up in new spaces and interact with people who may not appear directly related to our research. I took the advice as a provocation and a reminder that all folks have valuable insights, and to work toward inclusive research that paints a richer portrait of people’s lives. I should add that the anthropologist Liisa Malkki offered me this advice and her book Improvising theory: Process and temporality in ethnographic fieldwork contains fascinating insights into the strangeness and challenges of deep ethnographic fieldwork.

What’s something about your work history that someone couldn’t learn from LinkedIn?

My academic career began in Beijing where I originally planned to conduct research with West African migrants. For multiple reasons, I didn’t pursue this research, and selected a project in Italy and West Africa instead. Nevertheless, the challenge and excitement of learning Mandarin and navigating life in Beijing (and later Taipei) left me with an enduring sense of adventure and curiosity. It served as a monumental challenge but also a beautiful reminder that what we understand of the world and the conclusions we reach often emerge from relatively limited perspectives. That is simply a part of being in the world. There are infinite ways to be human so we will always have so much to learn from one another.

Tell us about a dream project (either personal or professional) that you’re working on currently or daydreaming about taking on.

I’m an unreformed bookworm. If I could sit and read all day, I absolutely would. I was a shy, nerdy (I say that with pride) kid and grew into a shyer and nerdier adult. It’s not a surprise, then, that I dream of opening my own used bookstore & coffee shop. I would love to create a space that feels warm and welcoming where folks can discover the brilliant novels that help all of us get through life. I lean heavily toward epic fantasy and literary fiction, and I imagine people spending hours in comfy chairs reading great books and relaxing—nerd paradise!

If you were going to switch careers and work as a tradesperson, which trade would you choose? Why would you choose it?

If I were not working as a researcher, I would be a baker. Very few things feel as cathartic, as relaxing, and as fulfilling as kneading dough. I love the way dough fills a space with that comforting scent of flour, butter, and yeast. When I was young, I would wake up early—long before the sunrise—to bake bread for breakfast. There’s something about quietly mixing, kneading, proving, shaping, and baking as the sun rises that leaves me with a deep sense of satisfaction. I love the challenge of baking croissants more than anything else, but focaccia follows as a close second. Both are so delicious when hot and fresh and can be combined with so many other ingredients (herbs, bacon, cheeses, etc.) that I could fill a lifetime testing infinite variations. I still daydream about opening my own bakery. Fresh bread feeds the soul.

Which sparks your creativity more: As much information as possible? Or just a few details? Why?

Hmmm, this is an intriguing question. I can’t quite say I necessarily lean in one direction or the other. I would say my creativity is most sparked by sensory encounters. Food, music, and works of art can all strike me in unexpected and lasting ways. Such encounters force me to tune into my emotional/bodily experiences and that attunement drives my creative pursuits. I’m not sure how psychosomatic attunement relates to the amount of information. Regardless, I am fascinated by our dynamic inner worlds, and that dynamism fuels much of my creativity—which in my case consists of terrible poetry.

When was the last time you felt truly inspired by something? What was it?

I’ve been reading quite a lot of poetry lately and have been absolutely captivated by the work of British Somali writer Warsan Shire. Shire’s ability to capture the complexities of migration, race, and gender astounds me. Two of her collections have challenged me to rethink my relationship to family, romance, and much more: Teaching my Mother how to Give Birth and Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head. In the poem “Home,” Shire penned words that I found myself repeating constantly during my migrant advocacy work in Sicily, “… no one puts their child on a boat/unless the water is safer than land …” Her work continually inspires me to mine the intersections of devastatingly critical insights and devastatingly incisive language.

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