“To clarify, add detail. Imagine that, to clarify, add detail. Clutter and overload are not attributes of information, they are failures of design. If the information is in chaos, don’t start throwing out information, instead fix the design.”
Edward Tufte (via)
“Metaphors are good if they simplify things. Metaphors that draw attention to themselves are detrimental, and double metaphors in a user interface are suicide bombs.”

—Oliver Reichenstein on metaphors in interface design

Related: Toxic Nostalgia

“Design must be functional and the functionality must be visually implemented without gags that need to be explained.”
Ferdinand Porsche, designer of the original Porsche 911, who died today at 76.

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics is a short animation from Chuck Jones based on the book by Norton Juster in 1965. Inspired by Flatland, the video brings a simple dot and line to life and explores the relationship between them.

The entire film, a mere ten minutes long, is an excellent study in storytelling. It’s inspired me multiple times and on multiple levels. Tonight seems like a good night to revisit it yet again.

“When you’re forced to be simple, you’re forced to face the real problem. When you can’t deliver ornament, you have to deliver substance.”

—Paul Graham, Taste for Makers

To me, this article on good design is up there with Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design as a solid framework for approaching design.

“Simplicity isn’t a goal or an end result. Simplicity is a means to an end, with the ultimate destination being a remarkable life focused on what matters most to you. You don’t practice simplicity for simplicity’s sake, you practice simplicity to clear the distractions that get in the way of the life you desire.”

Less, but Better (Or, how to make time for meaningful work)

So I read this article this morning from Unclutterer on living the life you want and it really resonated with a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about lately.

You should go read it.

This paragraph really struck a chord with me:

When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself what you really want from life? What makes you happy? What matters — really matters — to you? Maybe it is home ownership and 2.1 children that you want? Or, maybe instead of the suburban life, you would rather travel the world on your own and work only when you need a little cash?

What do you actually enjoy doing? What inspires you?

As I’ve mentioned multiple times the past few months, this has easily been the busiest season of my life (This is the last week of busiest semester of college I’ve even been though) and this got me thinking about all sort of topics like the importance of keeping busy versus the importance of rest, and how to focus your time and attention to get things done.

There was something about that busyness that drove me towards simplification. As I found myself getting to bed later and later, finding it harder and harder to get up each morning, and drinking more and more cups of coffee, I realized I need to make some changes because it was physically impossible to keep up at this pace and I was dangerously close to burning out.

So I asked myself those very questions over and over. What kind of life do I want? What matters to me? What do I want to do? And I concluded that in the end, I really just want to make meaningful creative work. I want to work on things that I’m immensely passionate about. When I can clearly define what’s most important to me, nothing else matters and I can start making changes to make sure the things I say are important get the time and attention they deserve.

Because you can easily say that family is most important. Or friends. Or some cause. But would your calendar reflect that? If we tracked how you spent your time, how much time are you spending doing things with and for your family or friends or that cause? I bet if we looked at how your time was spent to gauge what was most important to you, we’d think Facebook was the most important part of your life.

I know it sounds like I’m getting all self-help with this “be-a-better-you” crap, but really, I think this is all part of the creative process. I’d argue things like this will help you make the really cool stuff you’ve always wanted to create more than a blog of design tips and tricks.

My favorite design maxim; the one I refer to more than any other, is from the industrial designer Deiter Rams who says “less, but better.” To me, that’s the key to good design. And, ironically, it’s probably also the key to good living. Just like in the design process, you remove all the unnecessary elements, in life you need to remove everything that doesn’t matter so you can focus on the few things that do so you can start living that life you envision and producing the work you want to.

So spend time with friends and family. Work on things that are meaningful and important to you. Go take a walk. Read a good book. You’ll work will be better. You’ll feel better. It worked for me.

Time, Attention, and Simplification

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. As I quickly approach finals week for this semester, the workload is piling up and I find myself wondering how I’ll get it all done; how I’ll have the time to put in the care and detail and attention I think each project deserves. How often do we find ourselves saying we are too busy? That we just don’t have enough time. If only there were more hours in a day. 

But the funny thing is, we all have the same amount of time. My day is the same length as your day. I’m sure you spend your day differently than I spend mine. We are working on different things, we have different responsibilities and commitments and engagements. You might have more to do than I have to do. But we both have the same amount of time.

So maybe time isn’t the problem. What if the bigger problem lies in our attention?

When we make a conscious decision to do something—to work on one task or check something off the to-do list—we are making an unconscious decision not to do the 10,000 other things we also could be doing. When we put out attention on one task, we are saying that particular task is most important to us.

I always find it interesting when I see tweets and Facebook statuses about not having enough time or how you are going to pull an all-nighter because of all the work you have. You see the irony in this, don’t you? Don’t spend your time complaining in a public forum (or to yourself for that matter) about not having enough time to get your work done or whittle down the to-do list because that’s when it becomes apparent that time isn’t your problem. You’re simply directing your attention somewhere else. You are saying that Facebook and Twitter is what’s most important to you at that time. Think of the time you’d save if you just signed out of Twitter and Facebook for an hour and actually sat and worked. It’s all about simplification. It seems so simple, so obvious, but all too often we overlook it. Mind blowing, I know.

Where are you putting your attention? I’ve found that the less distractions I have in my life, the less options fighting for my attention, the more I can get done. For me, that means less time in the RSS reader, less time on FFFFound, less time on Twitter and Facebook. And guess what? Because I’ve reduced those distractions, my attention is more focused and I can actually do better work, quicker, giving me more time at the end of day to either take on more projects or check the feeds or Twitter or Facebook. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Reduce the distractions fighting for your attention. Remove tasks that are not most important and make conscious decisions to direct your attention to things that matter.  Until you do, just know you’ll be pulling all-nighters while I’m sleeping soundly in my bed getting ready to take it all on again tomorrow.