Weekly Learning: Aphorism, Strategy, and Strategic Logic


100 Things I Know About Design is a collection of aphorism-like reflections, which include pure awesomeness like:

Design is easy. It’s good design that’s hard.


Sometimes design is about creating opportunity.


A good design is often a bad design, refined.

Mixed-in are such nonsense like:

The purpose of any design is to make a hole where the future may enter.


Just because you don’t like a design decision doesn’t mean it’s unethical.

Surely you’ll find something that speaks to you deeply.

Highly recommended.

If you like what’s inside, you’ll also hugely enjoy The Tao of User Experience and potentially, Aphorisms of Design.

Designer and Power

Designers should redistribute power, not consolidate it claims that “[d]esign practice is the 21st century’s way to consolidate established power.”

The author rightfully points out:

With design practices being so widely spread today across public, private, for profit, not-for-profit, and other organisations, it’s important to reflect on what our role is, as designers, in perpetuating structures of power.

Power “lies in the hands of the ones who control friction,” and it “lies in the hands of the ones who control knowledge.” It also “lies in the hands of the ones who control potency,”

The author’s conclusion is confusing, thought.

Medium Design

How to Design Better Systems in a World Overwhelmed by Complexity is an “interview with Keller Easterling, architect, designer, and author of Medium Design,” which is of course a must-read.

According to the article:

[Keller’s] goal is less to galvanize readers behind her solutions and more to encourage a way of working and thinking that’s guided by creative reconfigurations and collaborations rather than delivering an imaginary TED Talk.

And she’s advocating for a different way of thinking:

…the [modern] mind loves obsolescence and replacement. The new right answer must kill the old right answer, and there can only be successive thinking, not coexistent ideas. It’s insane that we think this way.

Read the book if you like the interview.

Did I Do a Strategy?

Did I Do a Strategy? offers quite some insights to help you understand what strategy is:

A strategy is a framework for making decisions. A strategy should tell you what to do, and what not to do, in a given set of circumstances. A strategy won’t make decisions easy, but it should make them simple.

Strategy that doesn’t provide a clear framework for decisions, actions and tactics isn’t a strategy at all.

Along with a handy checklist for you to answer the question “did I do a strategy”:

  • Is this a framework for decisions? Does the client know what to do, and what not to do, next?
  • Have you shown your working? What’s your recommendation and why?
  • How is this a practical solution, designed for the real world?
  • Is this based on a well-defined problem that is usefully solved?
  • Have you precisely defined the units of measurement for progress and success?

In a similar vein, Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works quotes the book of the same name for a definition:

…a strategy is a coordinated and integrated set of five choices: a winning aspiration, where to play, how to win, core capabilities, and management systems.

And, “strategy is the answer to these five interrelated questions:”

  1. What is your winning aspiration? The purpose of your enterprise, its motivating aspiration.
  2. Where will you play? A playing field where you can achieve that aspiration.
  3. How will you win? The way you will win on the chosen playing field.
  4. What capabilities must be in place? The set and configuration of capabilities required to win in the chosen way.
  5. What management systems are required? The systems and measures that enable the capabilities and support the choices.

Good stuff.

Planning Handbook

My Very Own Planning Handbook is a great place for inspirations.

Systems Thinking

Resources: Systems thinking for designers provides some decent resources for self-learning: publications, communities, articles, talks, courses, and books.

It’s definitely a nice start before you delve into Principles of Systems Science.

Strategic Logic

Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism offers some great lessons about critical thinking.

I particularly like the summary:

FACT: Suicide terrorism is not primarily a product of Islamic fundamentalism.

FACT: The world’s leading practitioners of suicide terrorism are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka–a secular, Marxist-Leninist group drawn from Hindu families.

FACT: Ninety-five percent of suicide terrorist attacks occur as part of coherent campaigns organized by large militant organizations with significant public support.

FACT: Every suicide terrorist campaign has had a clear goal that is secular and political: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.

FACT: Al-Qaeda fits the above pattern. Although Saudi Arabia is not under American military occupation per se, one major objective of al-Qaeda is the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Persian Gulf region, and as a result there have been repeated attacks by terrorists loyal to Osama bin Laden against American troops in Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole.

FACT: Despite their rhetoric, democracies–including the United States–have routinely made concessions to suicide terrorists. Suicide terrorism is on the rise because terrorists have learned that it’s effective.

Slightly different from what you might have heard from the media.


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