Fill the void

Simpsons and Family Guy both started as traditional cel animation, 4:3 aspect ratio cartoons. Eventually they went digital paint and ink and to a wider 16:9 aspect ratio. I don’t think either show has looked as good as they did before the transition and I couldn’t figure out exactly why. BoJack Horseman, Rick and Morty and most anime series look great in 16:9 and hair thin outlines.

The difference is that neither show was really designed for a larger screen. They had to adapt as technology (TVs) improved. Essentially both shows got a lot more real-estate, but didn’t fill it with anything. Artistically the Simpsons residence looks more or less the same as it did when the show debuted in the late eighties. Peter Griffin still wears the same clothing as he did in 2001.

Copying and pasting from an old format to a new one rarely works out well without proper changes and design.

What’s the cost of bad design?

I regularly visit a small shopping center which has numerous design issues, but one of them stands out. A busy side entrance has sliding doors which are attached to a motion sensor. The sensor itself is fine, but it’s positioned incorrectly. If you approach the door from an angle, nothing happens. The doors stay shut. If you walk backwards and attempt to trigger the sensor, still nothing. Only if you do a proper double take and walk directly towards the doors, open sesame.

Most shoppers who can’t get in, end up either using another door or wait until someone walks out so the the doors open. The cost for the user is minor stress and irritation. The cost for the business is having staff deal with someone who was just made feel stupid by a door. Stressful interactions lead to more sickdays.

However, some just turn away and go shop somewhere else. For those selected few, the cost of bad design is literal: they will spend their money elsewhere.


A great way to vet people is…

…by finding out if successful people are talking about them. I ran across a video on goal setting by someone I hadn’t heard of, Zig Ziglar. The video I saw was interesting and the content checked out, but I was still suspicious: who is this guy? Is he legit?

Then I got an idea. I typed his name into the search field on Seth Godin’s blog. Lo and behold, there he was. Several blog posts not only mentioning the very same man, but celebrating him and his methods. This guy is for real.

Explore your surroundings

When I was going to university in England, I lived on a long straight street full of typical English row houses. Down the street was a Tesco supermarket and an entire avenue full of small shops. For months I didn’t bother walking up the street because it looked like there was nothing there. One day, for whatever reason, I did just that and discovered a small corner shop much closer to my house. Granted I usually ended up going to Tesco anyways, but I learnt something important: always explore.

If you start using a new program, go through all the settings and push all the buttons. When you move to a new neighborhood, take a few hours to walk around and be mindful of what you see. Take a different route on your commute, switch to a different bus or a train. And of course, see the world and travel as much as you can.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

There’s a common trend with bad fast food restaurants. If the fries are stale and taste bad, you can rectify the situation by adding an extra portion of stale fries to the order. The math behind this is simple. Soggy fries taste roughly half as good as freshly cooked ones, so a double portion fixes the problem.

Of course that’s not how any of this works. The fries still taste terrible, now you just have twice was many. Some companies (read people) are rooted in a post-war like mentality where quantity is always more important than quality, where scarcity is still an issue. Pushing down prices (with quality), inability to modernize, aiming to please everyone, having an inconsistent product line and concentrating on “maximizing profits” is a surefire path to a difficult existence and extreme competition where the biggest company almost always wins.

Review your old Facebook posts easily

Reviewing your old (and perhaps embarrassing) Facebook posts by using the “Activity log” is a lot of work. Active users have thousands, if not tens of thousands of likes, comments, posts and so on to go through. An easier way is to check the “On this day” feature once a day. It lists all the posts you made on that particular day of the year. If you do this every day for 365 days, in theory you have just gone through all of your Facebook posts!

Bad design

A great way to stay safe is to include everything in your design. All the data, all the buttons and all the terms. The user not accomplishing their goals is their fault, not yours. I mean, you did provide all the facts.

Bad design is laziness and covering your ass. Good design is knowing what to leave out, what to highlight and taking the risk that maybe you’re wrong on something.

Informal media

10 – 20 years ago, appearing on media (TV, radio) was mostly a formal thing. There was the inevitable combination of scripting, planning, wearing a certain type of clothing and talking a certain way which would form the end result. I’m not talking just about interviews, but also comedy specials, commercials, dramas and the news.

Of course this formal format still exists, but now there’s an alternative which emerged both from necessity and the evolution culture towards the acceptance of informality (necessity as in it’s difficult to keep up appearances for a 3 hours podcast being live streamed).

A more relaxed, informal style makes us look more human. It makes people more open and real. Freestyling instead of following a script is much less predictable and has the potential to reveal intimacy that would otherwise be buried under formality.

What doesn’t kill you hurts

I fully subscribe to the famous Nietzsche quote “What doesn’t kill your makes you stronger”. Well, almost. Most pain we experience in life comes from every day hardships: learning new things, having a flu, making progress at the gym. These experiences make us stronger and better. But then there is pain that does the opposite. Pain from abusive people, bad design and unhealthy patterns. This type of pain makes us weak and anxious. Learn to distinguish between the two and cut away the latter from your life.

Time or money

People have either time or money, but usually not both.

People who have time don’t understand why someone would pay for something you could do yourself. People who have money understand doing it yourself, but don’t have the time so they pay someone else to do it for them.

If you have neither time nor money, consider re-evaluating your life.