1. There are three great design themes: making something beautiful, making something easier, and making something possible.
  2. Design is the art of the possible.
  3. Design isn’t just about problem solving; it’s about creating a more humane future.
  4. The purpose of any design is to make a hole where the future may enter.
  5. Nothing designed exists — until it does.
  6. There are all kinds of ways to be a designer and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  7. Design is easy. It’s good design that’s hard.
  8. What makes a great designer? Having produced great products. Everything else is potential.
  9. Design without thinking is…


All links go to Spotify.

#9 Fake It Flowers, beabadoobee
Hey kids, do you like 90s female indie artists? How about one from 2020?

#8 Flowers of Devotion, Dehd
Spiky, catchy.

#7 Women in Music Part III, HAIM
Ok, I give. This is fun.

#6 Introduction, Presence, Nation of Language
Inject the 1980s straight into my veins.

#5 Made of Rain, Psychedelic Furs
Speaking of the 1980s, after an almost 20-year absence, the Furs release a very good album that is well worth your time.

#4 Making a Door Less Open, Car Seat Headrest The last couple of CSH albums…


A list of the 10 books I read in 2020. Usually, this list is 30+ books long but 2020 was such a shitshow, I just couldn’t focus. So the list is pretty pitiful.

Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

My Sister the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

Rising Strong, Brene Brown

Why We’re Polarized, Ezra Klein

Crazy Time, Abigail Trafford

Research for My Novel

Unnatural Rebellion: Loyalists in New York City during the Revolution, Ruma Chopra

Spies, Patriots, and Traitors: American Intelligence in the Revolutionary War, Kenneth A. Daigler

Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father, George Goodwin

Books on Writing

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, Jessica Brody

Make a Scene: Writing a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, Jordan Rosenfeld


The 10th annual (!!!) collection of the best articles nominally about design that I’ve found this year, alphabetical by author. I’m not sure if the list is shorter this year because less was written, or because I saw less, or because those of us in the US are facing a mismanaged public health crisis. Or all three, the first two caused by the last.

From Epidemics to Algorithms — How Technology Design Shapes Our Lives and Our Health” by Jenka Gurfinkel

For designers and technologists, it’s fashionable to talk about “design thinking,” and how do we bring that into our…


One of the central tasks of any UX designer is to create the interaction model. The interaction model is the overarching framework that ties the functionality together into a unified whole. Done right, the interaction model can be a major product differentiator; even if individual features are replicated, it may be difficult (although certainly not impossible) to reproduce the interaction model that ties all the features together.

Interaction models usually contain the following pieces:

  • how to launch or close pieces of functionality
  • how to navigate between pieces of functionality
  • transitions between pieces of functionality
  • how pieces of functionality interact with…


I went through two years of studio critiques while getting my Master’s degree in design, and have been through dozens of them in the five years since then*, but I can honestly say I’ve learned more about how to appropriately give design criticism from Tim Gunn, one of the hosts of the US television show Project Runway.

For anyone not aware of the show, it basically puts 16 clothing designers together and gives them challenge after challenge, with judges voting one designer off a week. The challenges can be anything from designing evening wear for pregnant women to make swimsuits…


Excellence, not success.

Discipline, not talent.

Courage, not self-doubt.

Action, not complacency.

Elegance, not luxury.

Forgiveness, not resentment.

Curiosity, not certainty.

Gratitude, not envy.

Creation, not complaining.

Weirdness, not conformity.

Finished, not perfect.


The late cognitive scientist and Nobel Laureate Herb Simon famously said that “To design is to devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.” While this definition firmly places designing as a core human activity, the definition in praxis is far too broad. It doesn’t take into account anything resembling design methodology or the aesthetic or humanistic concerns that designers consider. Using this definition, some have claimed that any and every decision, from what to eat for lunch to what business model to use to the decision to go to war, is a design decision. …


The 35 books I read in 2019. I’ve starred my favorites. Pleased with the upswing in women authors and authors of color in my reading diet. More is better of course but a positive trend.

Fiction

The Ruin of Kings, Jenn Lyons

Exhalation: Stories, Ted Chiang

The City Stained Red, Sam Sykes

Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips

Slow Horses, Mick Herron

This is How You Lose The Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Fleishman is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner

The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin

The Red Men, Matthew de Abaitua

The Grand Dark, Richard Kadrey

Seven Blades in Black


Are these all really design articles? Some of them, sure. But some maybe not. Who cares. Write your own damn list if you’re going to be a purist.

Managing visibility on YouTube through algorithmic gossip, Sophie Bishop

Taking gossip seriously can present a valuable resource for revealing fragments of information about algorithms during particular algorithmic moments. It holds the opportunity to engage more meaningfully with talk at the boundaries of algorithmic systems, and to reflect on how these boundaries are constructed and reified.

System Dynamics in Design Systems, Sean Blanton

Design systems are far more than the product they export. They are educational programs and support networks, bug reporting channels, experimental projects, and so on. And…

Dan Saffer

Designer. Product Leader. Author.

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