Quotes

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. “For the last year,” a friend recently wrote to me, “a lot of us have been enjoying unaccustomed courtesy and understanding from the world.” When people asked how you were doing, no one expected you to say “Fine.” Instead, they asked, “How are you holding up?” and you’d answer, “Well, you know.” (That “you know” encompassed a lot that was left unspoken: deteriorating mental health, physical atrophy, creeping alcoholism, unraveling marriages, touch starvation, suicidal ideation, collapse-of-democracy anxiety, Hadean boredom and loneliness, solitary rages and despair.) You could admit that you’d accomplished nothing today, this week, all year. Having gotten through another day was a perfectly respectable achievement. I considered it a pass-fail year, and anything you had to do to get through it—indulging inappropriate crushes, strictly temporary addictions, really bad TV—was an acceptable cost of psychological survival. Being “unable to deal” was a legitimate excuse for failing to answer emails, missing deadlines, or declining invitations. Everyone recognized that the situation was simply too much to be borne without occasionally going to pieces. This has, in fact, always been the case; we were just finally allowed to admit it.

  10. It can be tempting for a designer to open Figma and immediately push pixels. With the ability to copy/paste and remix from other files, the ability to create a high fidelity output is at a ludicrous speed. The danger is high fidelity outputs are not high-quality outcomes. This high productivity often lands designers in a spot where not enough iterations are done.

  11. …having to simultaneously juggle another task—such as keeping track of numbers on a screen—made individuals less likely to subtract elements to solve the same problem, suggesting that it requires more effort to think up subtractive solutions than additive ones. 

  12. What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.

  13. If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to yearn for the endless immensity of the sea.

  14. A good philosopher will say: “Know thyself.” A good shopkeeper will say: “Know thy customer.” A good designer will say: “Know both.”

  15. Dogs are barking, but the train keeps going. [in response to social media comments]

  16. I try not to take in too much information. If I get too much stimulus I can’t find the subtlety and that’s what I’m trying to find. And when I do, I’m very happy. I’m just like a kid.

  17. So you have to ask yourself: Do you think human creativity matters? Well, hmm. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about poetry. Right? They have a life to live, and they’re not really that concerned with Allen Ginsberg’s poems or anybody’s poems, until their father dies, they go to a funeral, you lose a child, somebody breaks your heart, they don’t love you anymore, and all of a sudden, you’re desperate for making sense out of this life, and, “Has anybody ever felt this bad before? How did they come out of this cloud?”

    Or the inverse — something great. You meet somebody and your heart explodes. You love them so much, you can’t even see straight. You know, you’re dizzy. “Did anybody feel like this before? What is happening to me?” And that’s when art’s not a luxury, it’s actually sustenance. We need it.

    1. Capture as much as possible. Capture without judgment: your thoughts are more valuable than paper. Externalize what you learn. Once an idea is captured in a tangible form you can begin surveying and manipulating it.
    2. Organize only after you capture. Filter, but don’t delete irrelevant information. Computers are big enough to search and store everything. Make them manage it.
    3. Synthesize into new meaning. Re-contextualize what you learn. This is the creative act. Experience becomes art, notes become a novel.