Graphic showing the user interface of map making tool Felt

Mapping out the future

From NASA apps to city planning, Sam Hashemi has a track record of transforming dated systems and esoteric processes with design. His latest target is map-making, which he’s bringing into the modern age with a collaborative tool called Felt

“I did a relatively rare thing for designers,” says Sam Hashemi, a California-based designer and startup founder. “Straight out of school, I joined the government.” Most of the organisations he went into had “really big, complex problems and a lot of historic software” but few designers, like the department of energy and the justice system. That also included working for NASA, where he led the design of digital products used by astronauts on the International Space Station.

“They were using this old Internet Explorer 6 laptop, where they’d have to slowly float over, put in their notes, and slowly float back to do the science experiment, and they hated it. So we made a modern iPad app. They could attach it to their suit and float around, pull it up in context, and use it to communicate with ground.”

After ten years in government-related roles, Hashemi had clearly found his calling: taking convoluted, clunky, or dated processes used to do important work and readying them for today – and tomorrow. He carried this spirit into the city planning software company he co-founded called Remix, which helped local authorities plan out infrastructure such as bike lanes and bus routes.

“It was kind of like a real-life SimCity,” he says, referring to the city building simulation game that paved the way for the Sims franchise. The comparison to a game is emblematic of his instinct to make the complex feel accessible and enjoyable to use. “Cities were doing all of this on paper, and so this was a really big sea change for them. They were finally able to try out ideas before [going out and] implementing them in the world.” By the time Remix was sold to Via in 2021 for $100 million, it was being used in hundreds of cities around the world.

Image shows the wordmark for map making tool Felt