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Reading Notes, January 2020

Article: “Level of Effort” by Brad Frost

REQUIREMENTS. What an absolutely terrible word. “As per the requirements…” It sounds so authoritative. So final. But at the end of the day it’s just some designers or BAs making some calls (maybe informed by plenty of research, maybe not) and rolling with them.

A really great piece from Brad arguing for the inclusion of front-end developers as equal partners in the design process.

A more collaborative process saves an absurd amount of time, money, and anguish. Frontend developers can not only help better determine level of effort of any design solution, but offer suggestions, alternatives, and solutions that better follow the grain of the web. “If we move this from here to here, we can build it out in 2 hours. But if it stays the way it is, it will take about 2 weeks to implement.” Repeat that a couple dozen times and you just saved yourselves months worth of unnecessary work.

I think this observation is spot-on.

Video: Malcom Gladwell on Larry King Live

I ended up down a Malcom Gladwell rabbit hole the other day, which resulted in some interviews with him playing in the background while I worked and I liked this:

A special kind of insight comes from distance...I think we’re really reluctant to re-examine our conclusions about the past. There’s so much to be learned by simply going back and saying “we made up our mind about this [thing] that happened”, boom, the day after it happened. And then we just let it sit there and never went back to say, “well, was I right?” There are all kinds of things you can learn, years later, that can fundamentally change your understanding of history and how you reach your own conclusions.

Then later:

It brings to mind that famous epigram “history is written by the victors.” And that’s true. The account that you get in the first go-round is written by the guy who won. So one of the reasons it’s so important to go back and look at history again is you have to give other people a chance to speak. People are willing to be honest with the passage of time.

Article: “Building Trust as a Designer”

Is it my job to be realistic and empathetic to constraints, or to be the persistent voice of the user who makes stuff better at the cost of momentum...? As with most things, it depends.

An honest look, I felt, at the reality of being a designer.

We have to learn to push for the impossible while navigating and respecting the constraints of the people and organisations we work with.

Article: “The Concept Electronics Show”

Concept designs (and worse, concept videos) are a sign of dysfunction and incompetence at a company. It’s playing make-believe while fooling yourself and your audience into thinking you’re doing something real. Concepts allow designers to ignore real-world constraints: engineering, pricing, manufacturing, legal regulations, sometimes even physics. But dealing with real-world constraints is the hard work of true design. Concepts don’t stem from a lack of confidence. They stem from a dereliction of the actual duties of design.


Designing at the limits of possibility is one thing; designing unbounded by reality is another.

Article: “A guide to Minimalist Web Design”

I just liked this one excerpt. I think there’s a key differentiation between “adding white space” and “removing stuff”:

Removing or excluding elements from a web page necessarily leaves empty space. So that space is not an action that you do, but a result that you get through throwing unnecessary elements out, because you don’t need more space. but you need less stuff.