Designing Fast, and Slow...

This set of drafting instruments was made by Stanley of London around 80 years ago. The pen handles, rulers and protractors made of ivory and the metal parts are electrum, a durable alloy of copper, nickel and zinc which replaced brass as the material of choice late in the 19th century.

The technology of the instruments is fascinating, but so is what they were used to create and document, and the interface between the mind and the 'page', so to speak. It is hard to imagine how we cannot be more prolific today as the barrier between thought and expression has been lowered in so many ways. I had to learn how to ink a drawing in school, and there is no question that the time spent trying to create the documentation is time lost from more creative acts. Or is it? Is it possible that these obsolete tools also provided the time to reflect, escape and quiet the mind?

Matthew Mays writes about the long period of slow alpha brain waves that precede the quick burst of gamma waves which EEG enabled neuroscientists equate with the "aha moment" in his recent book In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing

you are a...

Wendy's career was with children, working in homes, hospitals, and preschools. She was also an entrepreneur - starting her own school, and also became a self taught poet, and a photographer. She yearned to do everything creative...almost to her own frustration...and sometimes felt isolated from these so called professions. A (fine artist) friend wrote this touching empathetic poem to her:

I know artists whose medium is life itself, and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel, or guitar. They neither paint, nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased life. They see and don't have to draw.

They are the artists of being alive.

This, to the truest artist I know.


It is too bad that we place such a premium on titles and trades...there should be no real or social barriers to doing what you love. From an early age we are asked "what do you want to be", and the process of setting limits begins.

user knows best...

There are countless processes, philosophies and strategies for design excellence and how to define, identify, and achieve it.

One evening while enjoying a sunset on Lake Sammamish this home made beauty putted by - complete with hammock, gas grill, lawn chairs and coolers.

Could there be a better design for this?

There are lot of lessons for our PLM's, PRP's and other biblical development processes. When the consumer takes over, and nails it, we are probably over looking something.

quality communications...

This is a shadow thrown from the High Campbell chairlift at Crystal Mountain in Washington. So much snow had fallen in 2009 that there were warning signs to keep your tips up!

I love chairlifts. They offer a few minutes of quiet isolation suspended and surrounded by space and natural beauty... The thoughts and conversations you have up there are more open, focused and soulful.

Imagine if more meetings were like that... Have you had that kind of attention from the people you really need to communicate with?

I know if I really need to talk to my kids...I can do it on the chair.

ambience (winter, 2011)

Having access to tangible information can really change our mental concept of a product and system, and subsequently change how we behave.

Most hybrid car owners know that seeing their fuel consumption in real time changes the way you drive. Seeing how your driving modulates mileage gives you immediate control and influence over the goal of reducing consumption.

This picture was taken in near Mount Rainier in Washington, showing how coming out of the mountains I was achieving 60+ mpg in my Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Abstracting this to any product design problem...It is fun and thought provoking to apply this observation to other products...home energy use, water consumption, how many vertical feet I am skiing, my coffee use... What information about a 'system' could help empower a users' real goals? The principles for this information display may be:

Ambient: This is secondary information to the core operation of the device. In this case driving. It should be visible, glance-able, but not detract or add complexity to the primary use of the product.

Goal oriented: In my car, I want to reduce fuel use, but I also want accomplishments. (thus the picture) So, this product could be improved by allowing me to post a screen shot, or my progress to my friends, social feeds...or contests.

Controllable: It would be frustrating if this goal oriented information could not be affected by the user. In this case if the information sample came every ten minutes it would not have a very clear cause and effect relationship with my driving.

This goes beyond minute by minute hyper-miling. For example, I discovered a 10 mpg difference in the fuel consumption on one route I take to work versus another, slightly faster one. So, if I have time...I now have a tangible option for saving fuel/carbon/money.

I am left with a big car question though...why is this only hybrids? The goal of saving fuel may be even more salient to a Hummer driver!