April 2019 #DesignInTech Briefing

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From the April #DesignInTech Briefing

Four Things That I’m Thinking About Design In Tech

* With the 2019 Design in Tech Report now out and available in short-form and long-form on YouTube, I’ve started collecting material for 2020 from all the interesting (and interested) feedback that I’ve received online.

* My biggest “a-ha” has been a strong reminder that creativity is like Gordon MacKenzie would say, something that takes time. Or as Wieden+Kennedy dogma puts it, “It’s the idea buried ten feet under the ground.”

* Tony Ruth’s exquisite four-frame illustrated take on inequality, equality, equity, and justice emerged in the final minutes before the report went live. It literally came from nowhere, and not a moment too late.

* I’m in love with long-form blogging again after remembering how it’s so easy for a 2nd- or 3rd-party’s clickbait-y article title, or even a tweet, to be interpreted just as if it were a complete summary of all your thoughts.

Three Things I’ve Noticed In The Last 30 Days

* Accenture’s acquisition of Droga5 made me look deeper into what pundits say about consultancy versus agency. Conclusion: AI and data science look to be pit against humans and creativity — it doesn’t have to be that way.

* The Google People (HR) team released their new study on “distributed work” acknowledging that a third of their meetings involve folks in more than two time zones. Expect more tools for increasing timezone inclusivity on teams.

* Nieman Lab reported that Facebook’s News Feed algorithm change last year to increase user engagement has succeeded by as much as 50%. Divisive topics are more easily pushed up by peer networks in priority over publishers’ content. Yay?

Two Unsolicited Non-Tech Products That I ❤

* B.LeekS luggage suitcase wheels make my roll-about bag glide better than when I first got it. Pro-tip: The first size spec pertains to the actual diameter of the wheel.

* Twelve South has discontinued their Surfacepad for Macbook leather wristpads, but you can fight with me on eBay for them. Use an X-Acto blade to cut and fit for your laptop.

One Special Link

* I’m a bit behind on this month’s briefing because I needed to re-draft my upcoming book. Pushing out the 2019 Design in Tech Report changed a lot of my thinking, so the book needed some refactoring. https://howtospeakmachine.com

One Final Point

* AI is a topic that is moving from “oh no!” to “what is it?” — which means we have the opportunity to move from crisis to curiosity if the invisible forces of computation are eventually understood instead of summarily feared.

Comments on Fast Company’s Design in Tech Report Press Coverage

I’ve learned a lot about how the press can turn a short telephone conversation into something sensationalistic, and slightly twist what I really said. But their business model requires getting attention — so I understand the WHY behind it all. What I didn’t expect was to find so many folks out there who rushed to turn it into a platform for how they see the world in contrast to an imagined (and diametric) position that I carried. THAT has been the most interesting learning for me.

When I read the clickbait-y headline I almost fell out of my chair 😱. But I immediately recognized and understood that Fast Company is a business — and their job is to generate interest in a topic to improve their business position.

Context: Most interviews that get written about you don’t have sign off from the interviewee (me) so you never what or how an article is going to come out. In the early 2000s I was misquoted by Wired and it felt a bit icky — so that’s why I started a blog in 2004 on WordPress. Because my blog let me speak in my own words, versus the interpretations by someone else.

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On Simplicity, in WSJ Magazine

WSJ Magazine, March 6, 2019

When I began studying design 30 years ago, I started as a technologist. It’s a very complex world—computer code, chip design—and I realized how important it was to make things simple, because it concerned everything in your daily life. If those things you bump into in your house or carry around with you were complex, they were going to make your life terrible. I wrote simple computer programs that would produce complex outcomes. I simplified complex technological experiences. Many designers love to live in a KonMari-style house where everything is super-duper organized; their clothes are folded standing up, and there’s joy or whatever. But I tend to like complexity and diversity around me. Creative people are inherently spatial learners. They understand through objects in their environments. It’s what feeds their spatial memory, their creativity.

January 2019 #DesignInTech Briefing

If you’d like to get my monthly #DesignInTech Briefing sign up here to get it in your inbox first.


From the January #DesignInTech Briefing

Four Things That I’m Thinking About Design In Tech

* There is a new tool for effortless product x dev x design collaboration born every week that will solve everything. Not.

* Scaling design at the speed of Moore’s Law is not possible. Scaling design IS possible at a slower-than-desirable velocity.

* Inclusive design has achieved broad acceptance among designers as important, but for non-designers it can be a harder sell.

* Although there is palpable fear with respect to AI’s impact, there’s also some creative curiosity out there.

Three Things I’ve Noticed In The Last 30 Days

* Given how an app like TikTok can succeed outside of China, I wonder how many more popular apps will be proudly Designed in China?

* Boomers, Gen X-ers, Gen Y-ers, and Gen Z-ers all question the value of social media platforms while we watch TV (aka YouTube or Netflix).

* Software is reclaiming its “craft” heritage roots in response to our weakening trust of the big cloud services. Organic, locally-sourced apps anyone?

Two Unsolicited Non-Tech Products That I ❤

* Conus textile shells are both beautiful and affordable, and resemble Wolfram’s Rule 30.

* Little Eyes by Katsumi Komagata is a die-cut picture book for children under 3-months.

One Special Link

* https://designintech.typeform.com/to/Qnh5AA is the new 2019 #DesignInTech Contributor Survey

One Final Point

* Getting techies to learn from non-techies is surprisingly difficult because they don’t live in the same places — which is a sign of a deeper problem.

Design Is … -isms

In preparation for the upcoming Design In Tech Report I’ve gone back to look at my Twitter feed over the last ten years to see what I thought design’s meant to me. Some of these “-isms” are more right or more wrong depending upon the era that they came from so it’s a little embarrassing to look back like this. But that’s how we all learn: by trying out all of our ideas in public to see what might stick! —JM

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