My favourite design articles 2015

One of the great joys about compiling lists is not just the list itself, but the process of reflection. Taking the time to go through the hundreds of items I collected gave me to opportunity to spot patterns that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Two themes stood out for me: designing products vs. designing processes and describing the world in stories vs. systems.

Design Through the Lens of the Human Condition— Dmitry Fadeyev

For the modern designer, the essence of a product no longer resides in the thing itself, in the object, but in the nature of the audience, the subject, for whom it is built.

The Impossibility of Permanence in a Consumer Society by Dmitry Fadeyev

In order to create timeless work, the designer must first disconnect themselves from the market, for as long as the work attempts to satisfy the transient desires of the consumer market it will itself be transient. Second, the work must find its core in a thing of a more permanent nature.

Good Design is About Process, not Product by Jared Sinclair

The point is not to solve the problem (though that will eventually happen), but merely to explore it. The urge to find a decision and pass judgement will destroy the fragile creative process. Instead, postpone judgement until the allotted time for creative work has lapsed. Only then should you return to a “closed” mode, in which you are judging and implementing the plans that your creativity has inspired. Repeat the cycle of open and closed modes with regularity.

Prototyping Risks when Design is Disappearing by Cameron Tonkinwise

Ideally, designers are equal parts fantasists and realists. They can imagine the most far-fetched unreal things; but then they can also focus on questions of practicability, how to make those imagined things real. Designing should be a dialectic between to these two different kinds of possibility.

Designers have tools and skills to manage this dialectic, techniques that give the expertise of designing its distinctiveness. All of these are ways of making futural possibilities partially real in the present so that they can be evaluated and detailed — chief among these are: prototypes.

The Next Feature Fallacy (or, the case for simple, working systems) and Why we like Simple, Working Systems more than MVPs by Joshua Porter

[W]hen you start thinking about building simple, working systems you become even more focused on getting people to use the product. In 98% of cases this is exactly where product teams should be focusing.

Modular design: a collaborative approach to building digital products by Alla Kholmatova

As we move away from an internet built of pages, we have found the modular approach to be a useful shift in our design process. Thinking in re-usable components, rather than full-page mock ups, helps us to move to the browser quicker and scale the product in a more consistent flexible way.

Themes: A Small Change to Product Roadmaps with Large Effects by Jared Spool

Themes are an alternative for features. Instead of promising to build a specific feature, the team commits to solving a specific customer problem.

How to break the first rule of system thinking

SIMPLE: I didn’t talk about systems thinking. That’s about more than one thing, if you say more than one thing you’re saying nothing. […]
UNEXPECTED: “look! That’s the ACTUAL JAR that’s on the big projector screen! And.. Oh my god.. He’s taking the paper off! WHAT’S INSIDE! WHAT’S INSIDE!”

The shape of story by Christina Wodtke

And when it can’t get any worse, make it worse before it gets better.

Product Land: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 by Richard Pope

[D]igital products are also inherently complex and inherently multidimensional, […] design is too often constrained by our methods of thinking about them and too often risk being either derivative or simple iterations of variants as a result.

The interesting history is the one of the building of institutions that had the concept of accountability to the public baked into them — not an evolution of one thing to another, but active choice of a more accountable method of providing a service the public rely on.

Thanks to Will Myddelton and Dan Saffer for inspiring me to create this list.

Slides for Design better mobile forms

Successful form design has powered the emergence of web giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook. But forms have also become integral to how users expect to interact with government, finance and healthcare services.

At the same time, the rise of the mobile web, touch screens and the recognition of the importance of accessibility have radically altered what it takes to make forms easy to use. What you will learn in this workshop is a set of patterns and approaches for both copywriting and interaction design that will enable you to create accessible, understandable and mobile friendly forms.

View the slides on Slideshare

Hermeneutics for designers

When we think about our work as designers, we imagine ourselves with our head in the future, surrounded by the latest ideas of how things will be: the natural user interface, the internet of things and self-driving cars. Within this world it’s easy to forget that the future is made entirely out of ideas of the past. Everything we can imagine comes from this past and has been shaped by thousands of years of human history.

The past is often dismissed as a collection of outdated technologies and failed business models, and we derive great pleasure from reminiscing on how far we’ve come. This, however, only works if we look at the past through the limited frame of technological and economical progress. If we expand our vision and add society and culture to our view, we can see the past as a rich landscape of ideas, artefacts and people, all telling us something about what it means to be human.

How might we expand our vision and learn from the past?

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The futures of the city

Why do we talk about the future in the singular, when at any moment in time there are many futures to consider?

At the London IxDA April meet-up I shared some of the things I learned at the Urban IxD summer school, a workshop event where we worked on various scenarios for the futures of cities.

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