Quotes

  1. Stripe’s relentless attention to craft has become their Field of Dreams. Build the most compelling version of a thing, and passionate people will show up. But it takes a lot of trust, time, and investment to build in that way. When done right, it can lead to a huge long-term advantage. Stripe’s quality-driven approach has had obvious implications for recruiting, given Stripe’s reputation with designers and developers.

  2. A designer’s main job is a nested puzzle: identifying the right problems to solve, figuring out the right solutions to those problems, persuading lots of people that you did it all correctly, and then finally putting a well-built product in customers’ hands.

  3. Where I previously determined “good enough” and “finished” by —I don’t know—general merit and quality; I now make that call by some complicated calculation of number of users, how long they will see it, and the potential lasting impression it may have.

  4. We must remember that our design systems, when introduced, are not replacing nothing. They are replacing inefficiently-created, but often good-quality solutions: Solutions that have been designed by product teams in context and with thoughtful attention to their users’ needs.

  5. Does your role involve being an “integrator” across teams?

    Supporting. Connecting. Cohering. Resolving. Balancing. Listening. Translating. Absorbing.

    If so, there is a good chance you have a view of your organization that no one has (not even the CEO). You see and hear things most people don’t see. You are taking on an emotional burden that most people don’t take on. And you are shouldering an emotional burden that often goes unrecognized and unappreciated…and unpaid.

  6. A wise old owl lived in an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke, the less he spoke, the more he heard. Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?

  7. [Talking about finding things on the early internet vs. the social/algorithmic version we have today…] Everything and every one I found online was special. If you wanted to find something good, you had to work for it. There wasn’t an algorithm feeding you exactly what it thought you wanted to see. It was all you, going down the rabbit hole. A strange and rewarding journey of exploration.

  8. This prison has never been tighter, man. Having other people decide how you feel about yourself — none of that goes away. It’s all still there. What you have to do is somehow figure out how to have self-worth from within yourself.

  9. One of the best aspects of starting over is the chance to reassess what you care about now. Your priorities and circumstances naturally evolve over time, but your job usually doesn’t. You might be sitting in a job that made sense in the past, but now doesn’t suit you so well anymore. It seems like a whole lot of people are realizing this simultaneously.

  10. Ask a paid consumer group what appeals to them in your space, and you’re likely to learn that they tend toward the clichés that make your competition blend together.

  11. Cognitive psychologists sometimes talk in terms of two distinct types of consciousness: spotlight consciousness, which illuminates a single focal point of attention, making it very good for reasoning, and lantern consciousness, in which attention is less focused yet illuminates a broader field of attention. Young children tend to exhibit lantern consciousness; so do many people on psychedelics. This more diffuse form of attention lends itself to mind wandering, free association, and the making of novel connections – all of which can nourish creativity. By comparison, caffeine’s big contribution to human progress has been to intensify spotlight consciousness – the focused, linear, abstract and efficient cognitive processing more closely associated with mental work than play. This, more than anything else, is what made caffeine the perfect drug not only for the age of reason and the Enlightenment, but for the rise of capitalism, too.

  12. In order to get moving on the product, I will do a rough ranking to determine which areas are most important per the three questions above. This is what Getting Real calls finding the epicenter.

    A good way to think about this is: which parts of the app will teach me the most about the problem by working on them? This is the exact opposite of what programmers often do when they build the “knowns” first, like user-authentication, before they dig into the hairier domain-specific features.

    The end result of this ranking is something like a heat map that reflects my assumptions about where the value is in the product.

  13. Specialization and rigid role boundaries help with some things, and hurt with others. While it might be more efficient, a team will develop a level of learned helplessness when one person hoards a particular hat. Similarly, some things like research very much benefit from diverse perspectives. Exposure helps.

  14. When I’m able to take a step back, I realize that I’ve created my own prison. I physically cannot take on any more responsibilities. There’s no room to do more, and I’m afraid of what that means for my addiction. I want so much to quit and walk away, but I don’t know that I have the courage to give it all up. Recovering alcoholics talk about needing to hit rock bottom before they are able to climb out. The paradox for the workaholic is that rock bottom is the top of whatever profession they’re in.

  15. It’s a realization for many that some of the fundamental tenets upon which they’ve viewed their entire world are actually fairly rickety. Maybe we knew this all along, maybe that’s been in the back of our minds, but you really only know how strong something is by stress-testing it, and we’re in the middle of a fairly grim stress test.

  16. The word “delight” gets used so much in design because of the way Sir Henry Wotton translated Vitruvius’ The Elements of Architecture in 1624. Mitch Kapor quoted Wotton’s interpretation as Vetruvius in his 1990 software design manifesto.

    Vitruvius identified three elements necessary for a well-designed building: firmitas, utilitas, and venustas. Wotton translated this as: Commodity Firmness and Delight. It’s more like firmness, utility, and beauty.

    So, the open question is, in 2021, how best to characterize the aesthetic dimension of interactive digital systems because we shouldn’t be beholden to what a 17th century Englishman was saying about architecture.

  17. Maybe this period of seeming dormancy, of hibernation, has actually been a phase of metamorphosis. Though, before caterpillars become butterflies, they first digest themselves, dissolving into an undifferentiated mush called “the pupal soup.” People are at different stages of this transformation—some still unformed, some already opulently emergent. Some of us may wither on exposure to the air. Escape from the chrysalis is always a struggle. Me, I am still deep in the mush phase, still watching TV on the couch, trying to finish just this one essay, awaiting, with vague faith in the forces that shape us, whatever imago is assembling within.