The first time I met Cindy was in 2005 at, if I remember correctly, the first @media conference in London, which changed the entire course of my life — and Cindy played a crucial, tiny little role in that.
At the time I was a Windows-using web developer with an enthusiastic zest for web standards and accessibility. Cindy was a designer with an eye for understanding people quickly, a huge heart for seeing the best and sweetest in people, and a wondrous ability to bring the best out in others. And, as a designer, she was a Mac user.
We were introduced by some mutual friends, and Cindy’s sweetness made me like her instantly, the way most people who met her would.
During one of the breaks at the conference, sitting a couple rows behind her, I saw Cindy enter information from the business cards of people she’d met into her Mac’s address book, and it was the first time I ever saw OS X in action. I was stunned by the elegance of its functional and visual design, so I went up to her and asked to try it out a second. Well, first I laughed as I went up to her, because Cindy had that giant 17” PowerBook at the time and, well, she kinda disappeared behind it.
She let me play around with it for a bit, and the experience basically sealed the deal for me. I wanted to get a Mac after that, and the fact that people like Cindy — caring, supportive, kind, generous, and fun as could be — were using them contributed to that desire.
After that conference, I began a months-long crush on Apple, Macs, and design in general, so when Pedraum Pardehpoosh emailed me on January 24, 2006, asking if I was interested in working at Apple, I was ecstatic! I got that job, and—after a brief pitstop in London along the way—moved to California, building the life I’m living today.
A couple months ago I discovered that it was only five days prior to that email, on January 19, 2006, that I had responded to Jon Hicks’s blog post “Dream commission,” saying my dream job would be if Apple emailed me and asked me to come do web standards and accessibility with them. I was stunned by this discovery — and Pedraum had never seen that comment or blog post. The universe just did its thing, and apparently, it needed only 5 days for it.
I’ve been telling that story, of how I ended up coming to America, a lot in recent times, as part of my Love First storytelling show. And every single time I tell it, I mention the moment I saw Cindy entering names into her address book on that giant 17” Powerbook, and I smile in gratitude to her kindness and the tiny but instrumental role she played changing the course of my life.
That’s exactly the kind of thing that Cindy would do: she would impact your life in a positive, lasting manner, and it could be through the most innocuous things. Cindy would make a lasting impact on you with the teensiest of gestures, jokes, or comments. She’d always be there if you needed her, and give you shit if you needed that—but she would do so in a loving manner.
After we became friends, Cindy and I would occasionally video chat (“I have an iSight webcam now!”) and do group-chats with our other friends. Cindy was somewhat famous among her friends, certainly back then, for her many many faces, but her signature one was fish face—and there were many times we would all make fish faces together on chat, and at conferences in person.
Cindy also designed a T-shirt that was beautiful, elegant, and simply read: 👓❤️✴️. The “public” answer we’d give people about what it meant was “geeks love everything,” but I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you what our in-joke was. (I forget who it was that said “geeks love being anal [retentive]”, which led to the creation of the shirt, but it’s someone in this group)
Tomorrow I will wear my “Geeks Love *” shirt in honor and remembrance of Cindy Li, a powerhouse of kindness, an incredible mother of two, and loving partner to Matt. Sending them all the love I can. ❤️
Rest in love, dear Cindy. See you in the next dimension.