What the book "The Complex Designer" is about
This is a set of self-explanatory (or not really) ideas rather than a summary of the book. It’s hard to make a summary, since the text is as dense as it gets. Well or maybe I just hate summaries!
Chapter 1. Idea Generator
Creating is like talking · Design languages · People’s portraits · Your own story · The biggest know-how of creativity
A designer’s key perplexity is where ideas come from.
“What has just happened? Where did the solution come from and why that exact one? Why is it that sometimes I can’t create anything, and sometimes it produces itself?”
Manage the focus
Fit everything in
Place the accents accurately
Help to understand and compare numbers
Signal to noise ratio
Choosing the best perspective and scale
Reliability, relevance and statistical significance of the data
Describe the states and reactions of components
Simulate user flows
Indication and quick feedback
Consistency, predictability, interface patterns clarity
Describe new phenomena, abstract concepts, any complexity and uncertainty
Use pre-packaged meanings
Sometimes you look at your design and think, “What’s wrong with it?” It’s all clear, honest, and intelligent, but the result doesn’t impress.
It’s simple: it was you who made it. Let this one out, start the next one.
There may be some misconception: as if designers should offer decorating ideas rather than a design.
This is when you
must run usually get stuck with ideas. Because you can’t do it according to the guidelines, you have to do it out of the box and also pretty. And the meaning has been created and coordinated, you just need the form.
This is a dead end.
Understanding the power of memes is important.
Even if it sounds like a swear word in other languages, you can’t help it! It’s more beneficial to use the power of the meme than to confront it.
Chapter 2. How to not be afraid
Nothing will happen · Everything can be fixed · Hypothesis and experiment · The smart vs the bold wrestling · The greatest secret of courage · Assessments matter · The right to make an error · What to be afraid of
You could say, “procrastination”. I avoid this word for one simple reason. The question “how to not procrastinate” can turn out to be a long and hopeless journey through articles on the Internet with life hacks on timers, website blockers, and black-and-white phone screens.
And the question of “what am I afraid of” is, if you will, a tenfold power, the boss of all life hacks.
— Let’s agree that I have the right to make a mistake, shall we?
— Oh, no problem. Make all the mistakes you want! Just make sure you do everything as we agreed, okay? And everything meets the deadline, right?
(You couldn’t reach an agreement.)
The magic words I remember from my childhood are “please” and “thank you”. The magic words I have learnt as an adult are
I changed my mind.
— Just don’t be afraid! Don’t be, that’s it.
Sometimes a person is lucky to have confidence, but unlucky with empathy and observation. They may seriously believe that doubts are for wimps and lazy people, that you just need to whine less and work harder.
If you are going through a hard period, avoid this person — or at least having difficult conversations with them.
Chapter 3. Sturdy Design
Acceptance · Abstract design properties · Multicriteria optimization · See the future through design
The client must accept the design for it to survive. Not just agree with it, but truly accept it — understand it, love it, and own it happily.
Thus, the client will become a watchful guardian and the main protector of the design.
Here are some abstract design properties:
Designers make layouts, right? But a layout isn’t a real thing. The real thing comes afterwards. From this we can conclude that layouts are not very important.
A website is not a set of rectangular blocks with text and pictures. The main axes of the site are not X and Y, the main compositional task is not the placement of objects on the plane. This system lives in time rather than in space, the vertical axis is not Y, but t. The task of the designer is to figure out how a person will spend their time interacting with this system.
First you have to say to yourself, “I’m looking at the design, but am I looking through the design?” Yeah, really out loud, and this will sound funny.
And then you can adjust your approach to work and, generally, to life.
— So, is it some bullshit?
— Well, sort of, kind of, so, it’s bullshit.
— How about this?
— That one’s too.
— How about this?
— Oh, that’s aces, leave it, don’t touch it, leave it like that, come here for a hug!
Chapter 4. Difficult Client
Wants more design, forgets agreements, wants urgently and more options, offers his own, delays the process, causes chaos and panic, doubts everything and consults with everyone · No, no and no · Fences and sandboxes
This is a difficult client. I’m having a hard time with this client.
— Why is that?
— That’s a good question.
In all fairy tales, characters are either bad or good; in dramas, characters undergo a crisis and transform. But in real life, people behave the way they feel most comfortable at the moment. Normally a person has some sort of asshole-awesomness range, and in each individual situation you can activate both the worst and the best of the available modes.
It’s one thing to be able to work in difficult and unpleasant conditions, but it’s a different thing to consider it the norm and your duty. No one has such a duty!
To leave, it takes effort; it takes all the more effort to make things right. And just to leave things as they are, no special effort is required.
Chapter 5. Clarifier
Awareness Matrix · Just Questions · Effective Questions · Awkward Questions · Haziness · Impartiality · The essential secret of mutual understanding
Mutual understanding is not some “chemistry” that is either immediately there or will never emerge. Mutual understanding is to be constructed.
- An individual doesn’t know certain things,
- and may not know they exist at all,
- they have no questions and no sense that any information is missing.
- An individual feels they know certain things,
- but they do not remember how they happened to learn them,
- and have never given a thought about it before.
- An individual realizes they don’t know certain things,
- and can name them, can formulate a question,
- and are willing to accept the answer.
- An individual knows certain things,
- remembers how they gained that knowledge,
- and can specify the source.
It takes two things to reach mutual understanding:
- Genuine interest
- A willingness to agree
If uncomfortable questions are so uncomfortable, why ask them at all? Because an open question can save an hour and an uncomfortable one can save a month.
Chapter 6. More Money
The key secret to sustainability · No discounts · Cautious with pre-payments · Perfection and complexity · Unpaid mode · Diversification · Transparency or taboo · Not everything sells · Money is good
In every situation, you should try to get as much money as possible for your work. And make the coolest design possible. And don’t look at it as related: money is one thing, design is the other.
Money — for participation. Work — for pure fun.
The dependable way to earn more is to increase the complexity of projects. The only tiny problem is that complex projects are harder to do. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Draw a logo
Create an identity and design system
Come up with a brand platform, communication strategy, style, style guides and the whole design
Draw a website layout
Design, code and publish the website
Assemble the product team and set up the design process for continuous development of the website
You can’t allow a situation where making a displeased face instead of making a counter offer to your opponent is enough. It’s okay to bargain, but you can’t bargain with yourself!
Chapter 7. Deadline and Freedom
Quite a character · Suffering · Time · Plan · Continuous Integration · Deadline · Bad Games · Promises
Even after eighteen years of working, I’ve never learned how to predict long a project will take. Sometimes I miss by a factor of two, sometimes by a factor of five.
My typical week:
The plan helps. It’s just that it always breaks, and it’s better to know that beforehand. And if the plan always falls apart, how can you actually do anything?
Sometimes it’s better to trick yourself and do it than to know the truth and be scared to start.
Chapter 8: What I Want
Why we run · Normalcy · Manager vs. artist · The biggest secret of all
Speed is destructive. In trying to get everything done, it’s easy to lose track of why I’m doing what I’m doing, who needs it, and what I need. And these are important questions. In order to understand them, let’s first understand where we are actually rushing.
In other words,
A manager wants
An artist wants
You can do that, too!
* * *
Well that’s what the whole book is about. The web version has interactive stuff (not much). The paper version is comfortable to read with a pencil, without any distractions.
Choose the one you like: