#95 Simplicity is repeatedly saying no to almost everything.
Lessons from Design, Games, F1 and Adulthood
Austin Kleon recently wrote a brief post surfacing a novel idea from Henrik Karlsson’s long post titled “A blog post is a very long and complex search query to find fascinating people and make them route interesting stuff to your inbox.”
Here’s the core idea from the both the posts:
A blog post is a search query. You write to find your tribe; you write so they will know what kind of fascinating things they should route to your inbox. If you follow common wisdom, you will cut exactly the things that will help you find these people.
It’s not just true for a blog post as mentioned above. I’ve found some fascinating people through this newsletter and they have indeed routed interesting stuff to my mailbox, expanding my curiosity further.
If you find anything interesting in this newsletter, do share it with someone who can find it equally interesting. We're just a small tribe so far, and will surely benefit from a few more folks joining us on the way.
Let’s get to today’s finds quickly.
1. Lessons of Design
Fabricio Teixeira’s musings in “Lessons of Design” is an insightful synthesis of his learnings from a 20+ year long journey. Here’re three of my favorite bits:
Products that start with a conceptual model (a framework used to help people know, understand, or simulate a subject the model represents) have bigger chances of remaining consistent as they evolve and new features are added. Once you have a strong framework in place, it’s easier to preserve the integrity of your product as it moves from scratchpad into production.
There are hundreds of different ways to frame your designs before you share them: with a conceptual name, a short sentence, a moodboard, a story, a video, a poem, a metaphor, a drawing, a framework, a datapoint, a powerful quote—you name it. Trust your intuition and find the format that 'feels right' for each context and audience.
You will have to repeat the same presentation 95 times until the product is launched. That’s not your fault, that's not anyone’s fault. Do every presentation with the same passion and intentionality as the first one.
I loved the way he summed up his journey.
For many years I thought I was the one in the driver's seat. That I was the one creating the products. But after writing down these notes, I realized Design has shaped me in more ways than I could have imagined. Design has changed how I view the world, how I make decisions.
I thought I was just another designer of products.
Turns out I am a product of design.
2. Leadership lessons from Toto Wolff
Wolff is a self-admitted stickler for even the smallest details. He told me that when he first visited the Mercedes team’s factory, in Brackley, England, he walked into the lobby and sat down to wait for the team principal he would come to replace. “On the table were a crumpled Daily Mail newspaper from the week before and two old paper coffee cups,” Wolff recalled. “I went up to the office to meet him, and at the end of our conversation I said, ‘I look forward to working together. But just one thing—that reception area doesn’t say “F1,” and that’s where it needs to start if we want to win.’ He said, ‘It’s the engineering that makes us win,’ and I replied, ‘No, it’s the attitude. It all starts with an attention to detail.’”
Above snippet in the FS Blog newsletter got me clicking through to read Anita Elberse’s post for HBR covering 6 leadership lessons from Toto Wolff.
F1 fans will not need any introduction, but for others (like me), he is the team principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas (or Mercedes, for short). In the 2021 season Mercedes won its eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship. During that eight-year period, the team won nearly seven of every 10 Grand Prix races it competed in—a staggering feat. Toto Wolff has been pivotal in making this possible.
His lessons are simple and the stories memorable. A good read for the sports lovers, and for all.
(via FS Newsletter)
3. Coyote Time
Jerry Chang introduces concept of Coyote Time in his post “Defying physics in UX”
Named after the Loony Toons character, Wile E. Coyote and his physics-defying antics, Coyote Time refers to a split-second delay before gravity begins affecting a player crossing over the threshold of a ledge.
Now, the concept of Coyote Time is not limited to the world of gaming only. We’ve experienced it in many product journeys outside games.
These sorts of moments appear in products all the time, where mistakes can be made easily but with serious consequences. Gmail has an ‘undo send’ button, several e-commerce websites allow you to cancel orders within a certain time window and changing some social handles comes with a grace period, where you can safely revert back if you change your mind.
There’s a lot we can borrow from the world of game design. Here’s one final bit from the post.
Because the goal of a video game is to empower and entertain an inaccurate human player, strange and inconsistent physics is not only acceptable, but necessary for a good user experience.
4. Onboarding Tutorials vs. Contextual Help
NN/g’s brief explainer on “Onboarding Tutorials vs. Contextual Help” is a good read on how to think of user education on product flows & new features. Here’s a snippet covering why tutorials are not effective on most cases.
But not all help is created equal. Intrusive tutorials and lists of changes that are shown when an app is launched or at random points during the user’s session are a type of push revelation. Push revelations reveal new information out of context, without any specific indication that the user would benefit from the information at that moment. A good user experience depends heavily on context –- presenting information and options to users at the right moment, when they are ready for it, not when it’s convenient for the system.
The contextual help can do this ‘in the right moment and in the ways that are convenient to the user’ task, but that requires a very thoughtful design. Tough one to build, but more effective. Combine this with “recognition over recall” and you have a high chance of not just task completion but a delightful user experience.
5. Art & Entertainment
Stone skipping is a lost art. Kurt Steiner has dedicated his entire adult life to stone skipping, sacrificing everything to produce world-record throws that defy the laws of physics.
A fortnight later, the result of Kurt’s September 2013 throw came back. It was a new record, and it wasn’t even close. According to the scientists, Kurt had skipped his rock at least 88 times. “Everybody’s trying to break the two-hour mark in the marathon,” Chip Susol told me. “What Kurt did was basically show up and run it in an hour and a half.” People around the world marveled. It was an “unbreakable” achievement, Japanese mizu kiri champion Keisuke Hashimoto told me, “a product of miracles.” Author Tom Whipple called it Kurt’s Sistine Chapel: “He’s given this gift to the world, this stone that floats along the lake.”
(via Tim Ferriss)
Doing laundry as a metaphor for having difficult conversations. Jessica Hagy explaining adulthood in a way that’s super relatable.
If your mom always did it for you, you’re at a disadvantage as an adult.
You’ve got to know how to clean up your own, crusty messes.
6. Little moments of joy
A lot is happening at my end right now. We came back from a break and somehow got caught up in health issues. All of us are recovering (rather slowly), so I am expecting a hectic week ahead. Last week was slow on new discoveries, hoping to be smart about my time this week. Keeping my fingers crossed!
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
@10kiver on "Gambler's Ruin". A classic exercise in probability theory with lessons applicable in life, business, and investing.
27 worst things about going to Stock Photo University. A hilarious thread by Nathan W. Pyle. I bet you cannot stop yourself from laughing on this one. (via Awesome Things)
Finshots did an explainer on the IP battle between Oreo and Fab!0. Some good insights on how brand & design IPs work.
If you missed this year’s Super Bowl ads chatter, folks at Mad-Over-Marketing have a good summary in their “Chitthi”.
Phil Vance’s “In Their Own Words” is a beautiful collection of portraits. What’s unique, you may ask. He has a rather interesting way to render his subjects. See if you can notice it. (via Sidebar)
Title of today’s post is from Fabricio Teixeira’s post.
Before we sign off, here's something to bring a smile or two on your face.
That's all for this week, folks!
I hope I've earned the privilege of your time.
If you enjoyed this post, show your love by commenting and liking it. I write this newsletter to share what I learnt from others. If you learnt something from this today, why not share it with a couple of your friends to continue this chain?