Five years ago this would be in a science fiction movie

The FAA has made a PSA about drones at the Super Bowl.

Calvin, rapid prototyper

Questions That Lead to Love

An interesting article has made the rounds recently, detailing the story of a couple who fell in love through answering a set of questions to each other.

The list of questions is now online and ranges from polite dinner conversation:

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

To deeply personal:

What is your most terrible memory?

And truly existential:

If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

Seems like a worthy, though intense, exercise!

Sending out the dogs

“Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey” – Werner Herzog

True of ideas and designs as well.

On surfboards and yachts

And being close to the water:

Baldwin: How many sitcoms could you have launched with the imprimatur of your name on it? You could have your own channel. The Jerry channel.

Seinfeld: Yeah. But I didn’t take that bait…because most of it is not creative work. And it’s not reaching an audience. You want to be on the water? How do you want to be on the water? You want to be on a yacht? You want to be on a surfboard? I want to be on a surfboard.

Let me tell you why my TV show in the ’90s was so good…In most TV series, 50% of the time is spent working on the show, 50% of the time is spent on dealing with personality, political, and hierarchical issues of making something. We spent 99% of our time writing, me and Larry.

Why you feel so busy

A good argument for why our culture can feel so rushed, unifying individual perception, widening economic classes, new technologies, changes in parenting, politics, and more. Alas, no magic cure is mentioned.

Why the rich often feel busier than the poor:

Ever since a clock was first used to synchronise labour in the 18th century, time has been understood in relation to money. Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably. When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone’s time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems…

While the wages of most workers, and particularly uneducated workers, have either remained stagnant or grown slowly, the incomes at the top—and those at the very top most of all—have been rising at a swift rate. This makes leisure time terribly expensive.

How the glut of “leisure” activities makes all of them less relaxing:

The explosion of available goods has only made time feel more crunched, as the struggle to choose what to buy or watch or eat or do raises the opportunity cost of leisure (ie, choosing one thing comes at the expense of choosing another) and contributes to feelings of stress. The endless possibilities afforded by a simple internet connection boggle the mind. When there are so many ways to fill one’s time, it is only natural to crave more of it.

Parenting has become even more time-intensive as well, especially for those with the other time crunches:

American mothers with a college degree, for example, spend roughly 4.5 hours more per week on child care than mothers with no education beyond high school…As for fathers, those with a job and a college degree spend far more time with their children than fathers ever used to, and 105% more time than their less-educated male peers.

Sitting quietly

I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his own room. A man wealthy enough for life’s needs would never leave home to go to sea or besiege some fortress if he knew how to stay at home and enjoy it. – Blaise Pascal, Pensees, VIII, 136

Lying about the future

“Lying about the future produces history” – Umberto Eco, describing his book Baudolino

Resumés and eulogies

David Brooks shares a nice, quick talk on the decisions to live for your resumé versus your eulogy:

The résumé virtues are the ones you put on your résumé, which are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that get mentioned in the eulogy, which are deeper: who are you, in your depth, what is the nature of your relationships, are you bold, loving, dependable, consistency? And most of us, including me, would say that the eulogy virtues are the more important of the virtues. But at least in my case, are they the ones that I think about the most? And the answer is no.

In another article, he writes about the 5 “ways to be deep”, and hits on a few that aren’t as celebrated as they might be:

2. Suffering

“When people look backward at the things that made them who they are, they usually don’t talk about moments when they were happy. They usually talk about moments of suffering or healing. So we plan for happiness, but we’re formed by suffering…”

4. Obedience

“If you look at the people who are deep, often they don’t look inside themselves. Something calls to them from outside themselves,” he said. They obey a cause.

Why designers shouldn’t be smart

Recently Bruce Mau came to our office (I know, right?!). Bruce is known for his writing, including several “manifestos” over the years, and he asked everyone in the room to write their own manifesto in 3 minutes (he said he used to give people 6 minutes and they were all finished early).

The first line in my manifesto was “Be the dumbest person in the room”, which got a laugh from Bruce and prompted some followup questions from people around me. I’d written it as a bit of a lark, but the more I think about it, the more important I think it is. So why is it important for a designer to be the dumbest person in the room?

First, of course, it means that you’re always around people you can learn from. Great design is based on collecting insights from the world. If you are the expert in the room, where will you get your new insights? Always surround yourself with people whose experience and knowledge exceeds your own in important ways.

Being dumb also keeps you humble. Every designer knows how it feels to watch someone try and fail to use your design. The biggest temptation in that moment is to tell yourself “that’s just one person, and really this test isn’t representative,” and write off their experience as a fluke. After all, didn’t Steve Jobs ignore his customers? (Nope. But Henry Ford did, to poor results). Your confidence has to come not from your own opinions, but from the success real people have with your product.

Finally, when designers rely too much on their own experience and knowledge, they get lazy. When I’ve worked on a problem for a long time, and feel like I know it well, I’m less likely to do the research legwork needed for inspiration, less likely to ask other people their thoughts, and more likely to settle on the first idea that comes to mind. Conversely, a brand new problem forces me to start from scratch, with eyes and mind wide open to new possibilities (the next line in my 3-minute manifesto read: “When you get too good, start over”).

So really, the problem isn’t with being smart–it’s ok to get good grades, kids–but with acting smart. The best designers I know approach problems with the openness, humility, and excitement of a child seeing something for the first time. They acknowledge and work against their biases, and never let their intelligence get in the way of the right answer.