90% of All Content is BS so Don’t be Lazy

Designing Designers
Aug 03, 2015

2013/4 Brad Frost from CreativeMornings/PGH on Vimeo.

What an awesome Creative Mornings talk by Brad Frost on why we should not to be lazy in design. Or for that matter, in the creation of anything.

If anyone can be a designer, (or an editor, writer, publisher, programmer, videographer, and photographer etc.) the difference between an amateur and a professional is the element of Craft, respecting yourself in what you do, and your user.

Thanks for the timely reminder.

The Most Important Skill All Design Thinkers Must Have

Connecting the Dots
Photo Source: Flickr

It is the ability to identify patterns of insights and “connect the dots” in a meaningful way.

Bruce Nussbaum, in a blog post: 3 Paths Toward A More Creative Life, calls it “Pattern Sight”.

Pattern sight requires you to master the skill of looking for what should and shouldn’t be there. It’s the ability not only to see the rare “odd duck” but to routinely look for that duck and see it…It takes time to learn patterns of information, which is why you need to spend a lot of time “in the field.”

We call that “experience,” and you’ve seen that whenever you’re in a situation with someone who just “knows” what’s coming next without being able to explain it. That person is reading the patterns. This mastery is not about fresh eyes but wise eyes.

Many people use Design Thinking as a methodology for problem solving, innovation, or just figuring out what to do next. The key ingredient to arriving to the best solutions comes from identifying these patterns.

This is also the key reason why you cannot completely learn Design Thinking through, for example, a 3 day program or even one that is a week or more. We know, because we have been teaching it for years.

Most DT training programs will perhaps, at best, give you an introduction to Design Thinking and its value. However getting it done right requires experience, experience that stems from years of deliberate practice in identifying such patterns and applying it positively.

I like to expand this skill to also include the (overlapping) ability to reframe problems and situations. Many people look at reframing as simply turning negative to positive, or going from “left” to “right”. It’s a lot more.

This quote sums it up nicely and also my blog post today. Have a great week ahead!

Thus the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.

-Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860

Why call it Service Design?

Designing Designers
Feb 14, 2014

I don’t get why it’s called Service Design?

Especially when Service Design also considers products and systems in a 3-pronged holistic ecosystem? Or don’t they?

If so, why not call it Product design or System Design? Both disciplines do consider the other two.

So designers in Service Design are called Service Designers.

So do they provide design services, or they design services? Shall I get into what Product Designers or System Designers do?

Haha. We designers like to make our lives difficult, don’t we?

How Creativity Works

If you cannot see this video, click on: How creativity works – The sense making sessions.

It’s not hard to come up with something new. It’s hard to come up with something new that people want.

I think that is kind of the separation point between having lots of ideas or creating lots of stuff, and just having maybe one thing that really resonates with people that they have that Ah-Ha moment when they see it.

~ James Carnes, Global Creative Director, Senior Vice President of Design at Adidas.

What a great discussion! I particularly like how it was not the usual boring discussion on creativity, for example techniques on coming up with great ideas, but a more controlled application of creativity that is validated with customer insights.

Do enjoy this video with a cup of coffee and look out for a bunch of other really great quotes by James such as:

There is an expectation of the event itself (i.e. brainstorming workshops) will inspire greatness…actually it is the hard work (i.e. user research) before, the uncovering of things that have not been uncovered. Again it might be the obvious things, things that we have been ignoring, or really deep insights…

The big breakthrough moments aren’t things that just happen, they are actually things that have been building up.

If you listen to consumers and what they say, and you are a slave to what they tell you…you will never get beyond what they are not saying…

Indeed, as James says, the act of creativity is piecing together these unrelated moments into something amazing. This is why I do what I do. When this moment happens I can feel my adrenaline running through my veins. How about you?

Hat tip: Alberto Bissacco

Beyond Design : Explorations Towards a New Practice of Design


I thought you might like to know that I’ve been invited by my friends at the Shih Chien University Industrial Design Department to conduct a workshop to explore the future of the Design Practice and the Practice of Design.

Participants will understand and explore the changing roles of design and designers as a result of evolving industry trends and consumer needs. Central to our workshop discussions will be the function of Design Leadership and Design Research. I also think it will also be an interesting take on the application and evolution of Design Thinking from a Designers point of view. Have designers found a comfort zone with Design Thinking? Can designers better facilitate meaningful conversations? I’m really looking forward to this discussion!

Beyond Design is a 5-day workshop that will run in 2 phases. Phase 1 is from the 14 to 15 November 2013, and Phase 2 will run on the 8 to 10th of January 2014. Unfortunately it is by invite only, but I’ll see if the findings can be published soon.

If You Could Control Someone’s Attention, What Would You Do With It?

Designing Designers
Sep 17, 2013

Apollo Robbins, in wonderful TED talk, shares his observations on how people’s attention can shape reality. He talks about how a human’s brain when asked to process data (perhaps in the past) will not be able process data in the present. He does a much better job explaining this concept than I, so check out the video below.

Can’t see the video? Check it out here.

So how can we use this insight to design messages or messaging to control and capture people’s attention?

Creativity is about Self-Confidence

Heidi Grant Halvorson shares on Behance’s 99U that being in a position of power will allow you to be more creative.

Being in a position of power certainly changes you – not necessarily in an evil way, but research shows there is a definite shift in how you perceive the world around you when you’re the one in the driver’s seat. You think in a more abstract, big-picture way. You become more optimistic, more comfortable with risk, and more open to new possibilities.

In fact, a series of studies by psychologists Cameron Anderson and Adam Galinsky showed that when people felt powerful, they preferred riskier business plans with bigger potential rewards to more conservative plans, divulged more information, were more trusting during negotiations, chose to “hit” more often during a game of blackjack, and were even more likely to engage in unprotected sex during a one-night stand.

Well ok…

It sounds like being powerful equals to more creativity, and if you read further on in the article, it says that being powerful but feeling powerless reduces creativity.

To a certain extent you can equate creativity with risk-taking behaviour, but not always so. I know of design entrepreneurs who produce very creative work, but are very conservative business people. Furthermore, being in a position of power does not mean that you have to be a CEO or a head of an Agency (as suggested in the article), it could also be a small player with a unique selling proposition, skill, or design strength.

Therefore a more accurate description in this article should be: by being in position of power, you achieve a higher level of self-confidence that becomes a strong driver for creativity.

Via: 99u

What is the Problem with Digital Design?

Tucker Marion, Sebastian Fixson and Marc H. Meyer, writes a wonderful piece for the MIT Sloan Management Review on the challenges of Digital Design without good Design Management. Here is an excerpt:

So, what’s the problem? There are potentially two. First, because the technology makes the work look complete at every step in the process, it can create a false sense of security. There can be a tendency to move on to the next stage in the process before teams have taken the time to deeply learn user needs, construct alternative solutions and vet both of these. In other words, the “fuzzy front end” of the design process may be cut short — to the company’s long-term disadvantage. This is, we believe, one of the major reasons product failure and success rates have changed little over the past several decades.

Second, the very ease with which designs can be digitally drafted and prototyped might afford engineers the opportunity to “try it again and then, again and again.” In other words, the final design process can remain fluid longer than is useful. The ability to quickly iterate designs can lead to a spiraling effect, chewing up time and labor expense and effectively mitigating the benefits of digital design itself. Research has shown that these “virtual design rounds” can account for 75% of total project development costs, and they can delay project completion. For example, Airbus suffered severe delays in the development of its new A380 due to issues with CAD revisions

While this is something I have observed anecdotally in my years in the industry, the authors have backed it up with some good research. The reality is that engineers and designers should NOT be designing in CAD. Period. The only time someone should get into CAD is when the design direction is finalized and you need a dimensionally resolve a design.

The challenge going forward is that CAD is getting really easy to use these days. So the problem becomes an issue of process and as the authors say an over emphasis on CAD leads to team shortchanging “…valuable activities such as extensive user research, intensive parallel concept development, and deeper systems and architecture design as part of the front end of development.”

This fuzzy up-front work should be kept fuzzy. However if CAD is brought in too early in the process, things look too complete. Especially when you throw V-Ray into the mix. Furthermore, you do not want a client to latch on to an idea early in the process, especially if you don’t really know if it is going to work of if the inside is not even shelled!

The author’s second insight on the repeated iteration problem is an interesting one. In many ways it feeds into a designer’s creation engine and his or her passion for perfection. A designer could spend a whole bunch of time tweaking radius and curves just to ensure it’s “right”. Again this supports the notion to stay out of CAD until the design is done.

Another way to look at it is that, if you find yourself tinkering around a design, it is time to step away from the computer and either get back to sketching or making foam models.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not have anything against CAD. I would even consider myself an expert in Rhino and have also been extensively trained in advance surface modeling in Pro-E. But just like a pencil, CAD is a tool and we should be very aware of what it can do and it’s limitations (which are often difficult to see).

Anyways check out the rest of the article, as it has some great real-world examples. Enjoy!

The Cult of Done Manifesto

Designing Designers
Sep 02, 2012

Click the image for a larger one!

The Cult of Done Manifesto is perfect for any creative, but procrastination prone, mind. The meaning of the images is as follows:

The Cult of Done Manifesto

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.

2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.

3. There is no editing stage.

4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know
what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.

5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.

6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.

7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.

8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.

10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

11. Destruction is a variant of done.

12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.

13. Done is the engine of more.

I love number 10. How about you?

Via: Bre Pettis

David Ogilvy says He is a Lousy Copywriter

Everyone knows who David Ogilvy is.

He is probably one of the worlds greatest “ad men” and the likely inspiration to Mad Men. In 1948, David started Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency responsible for some of the world’s most iconic ad campaigns such as Dove beauty products featuring real women, and American Express’ “Don’t Leave Home without it”. However, not many people know that he is a lousy copywriter, at least, not in the traditional sense.

In a response to a fan letter on how to be a better copywriter, David insists that he is actually a lousy one and writes:

April 19, 1955

Dear Mr. Calt:

On March 22nd you wrote to me asking for some notes on my work habits as a copywriter. They are appalling, as you are about to see:

1. I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.

2. I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.

3. I am helpless without research material—and the more “motivational” the better.

4. I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.

5. Before actually writing the copy, I write down every concievable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organized and relate them to research and the copy platform.

6. Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement. And I never select the final headline without asking the opinion of other people in the agency. In some cases I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.

7. At this point I can no longer postpone the actual copy. So I go home and sit down at my desk. I find myself entirely without ideas. I get bad-tempered. If my wife comes into the room I growl at her. (This has gotten worse since I gave up smoking.)

8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.

9. If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.

10. The next morning I get up early and edit the gush.

11. Then I take the train to New York and my secretary types a draft. (I cannot type, which is very inconvenient.)

12. I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry—because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.

Altogether it is a slow and laborious business. I understand that some copywriters have much greater facility.

Yours sincerely,


What is really fascinating is that this “lousy” process is, as we know now, a recipe for creativity. Enjoy.

Via: Letters of Note.