asimpleframe

Pivot Apartment

From Architizer:

Pivot is a pre-war studio revamped into a modern adaptable space containing a secret bedroom. The brief called for hosting 10 for dinner, sleeping 6, a home office, a private study, and an efficient kitchen for a client that loves to entertain, all within a 400s square foot studio apartment.

Incredibly inspiring and perhaps the best design I’ve seen for a small, transforming apartment. Kudos to the designers at Architecture Workshop.

Designed Reality

From New York Magazine’s cover story on Donald Trump’s campaign:

But one factor that’s been particularly crucial to Trump’s rise may be the way that reality television, cable news, and talk radio have shaped the culture’s sense of “reality” — in other words, its relationship to truth. If Ronald Reagan showed us that Hollywood was good training for politics, Trump is proving that the performance skills one learns in the more modern entertainment arenas are even more useful. Talk and reality shows are improvised operations, mastered by larger-than-life personalities expert at distorting and provoking, shifting and commandeering attention.

[…]

But a couple of things happen when reality­-TV standards are applied to politics: One is that the level of sleaze gets so high that nothing is shocking — casual racism, misogyny, a campaign manager charged with battery, allegations about candidates’ affairs or sexual orientations, constant gossip about “even worse” revelations on all sides to come (“Tune in next week!”). This primary season would seem implausible if it were fiction. But as reality TV, it’s spot-on.

As a society, the (entertainment) products and systems we design profoundly shape our perception of reality and truth.

Thoughtful Design Criticism

A call for more thoughtful design criticism from Michael Bierut that becomes more relevant with each passing year:

The basic starting point of Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport is “I could have done better.” And of course you could! But simply having the idea is not enough. Crafting a beautiful solution is not enough. Doing a dramatic presentation is not enough. Convincing all your peers is not enough. Even if you’ve done all that, you still have to go through the hard work of selling it to the client. And like any business situation of any complexity whatsoever, that process may be smothered in politics, handicapped with exigencies, and beset with factors that have nothing to do with design excellence. You know, real life. Creating a beautiful design turns out to be just the first step in a long and perilous process with no guarantee of success. Or, as Christopher Simmons put it more succinctly, “Design is a process, not a product.”

Doing design in the real world is rarely about design. It’s about working with people amidst complexity. Bierut writes about graphic design, but the same parallel he draws around the layman’s heightened awareness of graphic design extends just as much, if not more, to software design. People care deeply about their relationships with software products. Substitute “app” for “logo”:

But perhaps the question in these logo discussions could be more than: could I do better? Perhaps we could also ask: what was the purpose? What was the process? Whose ends were being served? How should we judge success? But we seldom look any deeper than first impressions, wallowing instead in a churning maelstrom of snap judgments. Should we be surprised when the general public jumps right in after us?

Where is the thoughtful, articulate criticism for software product design? Bierut’s quotation of Massimo Vignelli’s call to action is apt:

It is time to debate, to probe the values, to examine the theories that are part of our heritage and to verify their validity to express our times.

Inspired Aging

A contrarian (and true) view of the middle-aged:

They achieve a kind of tranquillity, not because they’ve decided to do nothing, but because they’ve achieved focus and purity of will. They have enough self-confidence, and impatience, to say no to some things so they can say yes to others.

From this perspective, middle age is kind of inspiring. Many of life’s possibilities are now closed, but limitation is often liberating. The remaining possibilities can be seized more bravely, and lived more deeply.

In life as in creativity: limitation is liberating.

Pitch Tips

A helpful list of five key narrative points for a compelling pitch:

  1. Name the enemy
  2. Answer “Why now?”
  3. Show the promised land before explaining how you’ll get there
  4. Identify obstacles—then explain how you’ll overcome them
  5. Present evidence that you’re not just blowing hot air

In the Bathroom Together

Josh Nissenboim, co-founder of Fuzzco:

This might get weird for a minute: some couples don’t go to the bathroom together. [Helen laughs] And that blows my mind! How have you never gone to the bathroom with that other person in the room? What I’m saying is, I believe you need to have an incredibly open and comfortable relationship if you’re going to go into business together.

Fuzzco’s other co-founder, Helen Rice:

Exactly. You have to be vulnerable and feel like the other person is truly your partner. You need to be aware of avoiding power struggles and making sure each person has their own, defined role. That’s the best way to work together.

Josh:

And when you’re in the bathroom together, you can get some shit done.

Having long admired Fuzzco’s work, it was a delight to read this husband-and-wife team’s TGD interview.

Radical Candor

Radical Candor is one of the most impactful articles I read last year. It’s one I foresee revisiting frequently. Here are several of my key takeaways:

Focus on guidance.

The single most important thing a boss can do, Scott has learned, is focus on guidance: giving it, receiving it, and encouraging it. Guidance, which is fundamentally just praise and criticism, is usually called “feedback,” but feedback is screechy and makes us want to put our hands over our ears. Guidance is something most of us long for.

Aim for radical candor.

Picture a basic graph divided into four quadrants. If the vertical axis is caring personally and the horizontal axis is challenging directly, you want your feedback to fall in the upper right-hand quadrant. That’s where radical candor lies.

Avoid ruinous empathy.

The vast majority of management mistakes happen in the quadrant that I call ruinous empathy

Being critical is a moral obligation.

Challenging others is difficult for many people; saying anything short of positive feels impolite. But once you become a boss, it’s your job to do be equally clear about what’s going wrong, and what’s going right. […] I would argue that criticizing your employees when they screw up is not just your job, it’s actually your moral obligation.

HHIPP!

HHIPP: “Radical candor is humble, it’s helpful, it’s immediate, it’s in person — in private if it’s criticism and in public if it’s praise — and it doesn’t personalize.” That last P makes a key distinction: “My boss didn’t say, ‘You’re stupid.’ She said, ‘You sounded stupid when you said um.’ There’s a big difference between the two.”

​Care personally, but be willing to piss people off.

Caring personally makes it much easier to do the next thing you have to do as a good boss, which is being willing to piss people off.