Design reading list #2 — February
I feel a bit late writing this mid-March, but I am trying my best to be consistent. This month has not been very good in terms of reading as there was a lot going on!
This month I started my design bootcamp with Memorisely and I cannot be happier. I feel like I am learning a lot and gradually being more and more immersed into the world of design. Having said that, I discovered that there is no way for a human to sit down and say: yes, I have mastered design now. As design as a discipline is constantly changing, there is no way one could learn all about it, ever. That’s what I think I’ve been missing all along during my career. I love changes and innovation and it’s fascinating to be a part of the design community that is adapting to these changes so rapidly.
This entry turned into a bit of a ramble — please forgive me. It’s almost midnight and I am currently sitting on my bedroom floor which is almost completely covered in wireframe drawings and I have just run out of tea. So please allow this review to be like my whole month of February — delightfully chaotic.
Book 1 — Hooked. How to Build Habit-Forming Products
First book of the month was one of the assigned readings from the Memorisely curriculum. It explains the strategies for building habit forming products that are based in human psychology. One of the concepts I found really interesting was ‘rewards of the tribe’. It was based on the premises that people can be motivated to do something if thereafter they’re recognised and valued by others, regardless if they receive monetary compensation. One of products mentioned as an example were Reddit and Quora.
It’s just one example, but the book is full of different psychological theories like that. It also mentions that knowledge of how to ‘hook’ users should be used with reason, so designers don’t fall into traps of creating ‘dark patterns’ which are supposed to trick users and make them addicted to the product. I completely get this idea, but who will be then to judge where the line is? Is forming a habit that is potentially harmless in eyes of the designer, still harmless for the user? I feel like a lot of responsibility is given in the hands of a designer, who is obviously judging from the point of their own perspective.
I hope that the future of design also focusses on ethical aspects of it. Perhaps there should be a distinction made between what we can do and what we should do as designers. But also, who will be there to judge it? It’s a tricky question that I will leave until I get my 8 hours of sleep.
Book 2 — Emotional Design by Don Norman
This is a second book of Don Norman I read this year, after the (in)famous Design of Everyday Things. I must admit, I liked this one better than the previous one, mostly because it acknowledges the emotional aspect of design a bit more. Design of Everyday Things focussed on the utilitarian aspect of design and completely ignored the fact that users can still love things despite them being a bit difficult, or even completely impossible to use.
What I don’t like about this book is slightly patronising and male-centric vision of design and perception of users’ needs. That is expected, as the author is a man, but it just made me think how many design books were written completely ignoring the women’s perspective of being a user. There is a fantastic book about women being ommitted in many design tests and practices called Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez which talks more about this topic. At this stage I need to learn more to form an opinion on how to tackle this problem, but please rest assured that I probably have more to say about it than I reveal now (also, did I mention it’s really really late).
Book 3 — When the Body Says No by Gabor Mate
Okay, this is not a design book, I know. Also I was listening to it in an audiobook version, so it probably doesn’t even count. However — I think it was one of the best books I read (listened to) in a long time, mostly because of it’s profound messaging.
The premise of the book is how our bodies deal with stress. But it’s not your usual work stress or being nervous. It’s the fundamental stress a body goes through if its owner does not live their true authentic lives. Every time we say yes when we should have said no, every time we stay calm when we are supposed to get angry — our body suffers on a deep level that gets stored in the body. If the energy is not going outwards, it goes inwards and changes the hormonal balance. That’s why people who often live lives catered towards others and ignore their own needs and wants are more prone to deadly illnesses.
Why am I mentioning this book in a design reading list? It’s because I am myself on a path of becoming my most authentic self. The self that loves to explore, read, write and create new things. The self I think I was always meant to be and now I am becoming her, slowly but steadily.
I think we all owe to ourselves to honour our wants and needs, dreams and desires and our bodies and minds will be grateful for it. Whether its a job, a relationship, a friendship or any other situation that makes you feel like you’re not your most authentic self — leave it. Say no so you can hear a yes.
On that note, I am going to bed. My body says: SLEEP.