Quotes

  1. Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?

  2. Voice UIs look, conceptually, like much more unrestricted and general purpose interfaces than a smartphone, but they’re actually narrower and more single-purpose. They look like less friction than pulling out your phone, unlocking it, loading an app and so on, and they are – but only if you’ve shifted your mental model. They look like the future beyond smartphones, but in their (necessarily) closed, locked-down nature they also look a lot like feature phones or carrier decks. And they’re a platform, but one that might get worse the bigger the developer ecosystem. This is captured pretty well by the ‘uncanny valley’ concept from computer animation: as a rendering of a person goes from ‘cartoon’ to ‘real person’ there’s a point where increased realism makes it look less rather then more real – making the tech better produces a worse user experience at first.

  3. If you don’t stick to your values when they are being tested, they’re not values… they’re hobbies.

  4. You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse. What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls. Someone says no. A curator is involved, making conscious decisions about what should stay and what should go. There’s an editing process. There’s a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls. The best is a sub-sub-subset of all the possibilities.

  5. It was interesting to me to see how the script and the suggestions I made for it propagated through the making of Arrival. It reminded me quite a lot of how I, at least, do software design: everything kept on getting simpler. I’d suggest some detailed way to fix a piece of dialogue. “You shouldn’t say [the Amy Adams character] flunked calculus; she’s way too analytical for that.” “You shouldn’t say the spacecraft came a million light years; that’s outside the galaxy; say a trillion miles instead.” The changes would get made. But then things would get simpler, and the core idea would get communicated in some more minimal way. I didn’t see all the steps (though that would have been interesting). But the results reminded me quite a lot of the process of software design I’ve done so many times—cut out any complexity one can, and make everything as clear and minimal as possible.

  6. Software development—or at least language development—also has some structural similarities to movie making. One starts from a script—an overall specification of what one wants the finished product to be like. Then one actually tries to build it. Then, inevitably, at the end when one looks at what one has, one realizes one has to change the specification.

  7. I’ve led a few dozen major software releases in my life. And one might think that by now I’d have got to the point where doing a software release would just be a calm and straightforward process. But it never is. Perhaps it’s because we’re always trying to do majorly new and innovative things. Or perhaps it’s just the nature of such projects. But I’ve found that to get the project done to the quality level I want always requires a remarkable degree of personal intensity. Yes, at least in the case of our company, there are always extremely talented people working on the project. But somehow there are always things to do that nobody expected, and it takes a lot of energy, focus and pushing to get them all together.

  8. Other differences [between architecture and interior design] are clear in the approach to the work. For the interior designer there is no equivalent of a clear site; the least limiting of interior space with which the designer must contend is more conditioned than almost all sites with which the architect is presented. Consequently there is a different consciousness required of the interior designer in the approach to his or her work. It is provoked by this condition of fitting, of always working with and within existing structures. Because of this, a structured understanding of the host building is an essential preliminary to the consideration of any intervention. The understanding needs to be a common language derived from the actuality of the built form, a language which will allow a mental deconstruction, informing the physical alterations. It requires of the designer a thoughtful stripping back of the host building. An understanding must be reached which is material, spatial and cultural.

  9. In his world the role of the client is paramount, and also whereas most clients can be relied upon to understand area, there are a few that will understand space. The architect tends to dream his production. The designer however is always aware of the client’s hot breath and, like a striker in a game of football, or someone waking, he must struggle to make space in the face of intense distraction.

  10. Without a password manager app, it’s just impossible to use passwords securely online. Every bank-level secure web site we log into with a super strong password (One of our “main” passwords, maybe? With a ‘4’ instead of an ‘a’, am I right?) is only as secure as the flimsiest fly-by-night.com where we signed up with the exact same password.

  11. The concept of GDP and economic progress didn’t even exist until the Great Depression. It was invented so that the government could figure out how bad the economy was getting and how to make it better. Economist Simon Kuznets, upon introducing GDP to Congress in 1934 remarked that “Economic welfare cannot be adequately measured unless the personal distribution of income is known. And no income measurement undertakes to estimate the reverse side of income, that is, the intensity and unpleasantness of effort going into the earning of income. The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above.” It’s almost like he saw income inequality and bad jobs coming.

  12. The inglenook originated as a partially enclosed hearth area, appended to a larger room. The hearth was used for cooking, and its enclosing alcove became a natural place for people seeking warmth to gather. With changes in building design, kitchens became separate rooms, while inglenooks were retained in the living space as intimate warming places, subsidiary spaces within larger rooms.

  13. Designers also copy in not-so-direct ways. The bell-bottoms craze of the 1960s and ‘70s started with women raiding their local thrift stores for naval uniforms. British and American sailors at that time wore bell-bottom cuffs so they could roll up their trousers while swabbing a deck. Counterculture types, however, knew they could wear the same pants to razz their parents, honor the working class, and strike a bohemian pose. By the time Sonny and Cher donned them on their popular TV show, bell-bottoms had entered mainstream fashion – not because everyone was shopping at thrift stores, but because designers had copied street culture. 

  14. Whatever a user’s natural usage is, our notifications strategy should align to this. Notifications shouldn’t be used to force users into behaviour that doesn’t make sense to them as notifications can’t change behaviour. Notifications should amplify and encourage natural behaviours and reinforce existing behaviours.

    Too many notifications feels like spam. Too few notifications and users forget about your app.

  15. Getting promoted is usually more nuanced than just nailing a series of discrete tasks (like shipping a particular project for example). It also requires consistently demonstrating impact across a broad range of competencies that are often more amorphous (like learning how to think strategically, for example).

  16. This transformation in the way companies buy design is making designers realize they are selling a process, not a deliverable.

  17. Who needs these big toolchains? Generally, it’s the big sites. It’s a bit tricky to pin down what big means, but I bet you have a good feel for it. Ironically, while heaps of tooling add complexity, the reason they are used is for battling complexity. Sometimes it feels like releasing cougars into the forest to handle your snake problem. Now you have a cougar problem.

  18. Talking about creating “delightful” user experiences is actually user-hostile when it wrongly presumes that your customer wants to be emotionally involved with your service at all. Fast and invisible are often the better parts of delight.