“10 principles for design in the age of AI” and other edicts

Not a fan of Yves Béhar or self-promotion packaged as a high-falutin’ design manifesto, and feeling generally ornery, so just one-sentence reactions:

1. Design solves an important human problem

There are millions of design challenges, not every design does or needs to solve an “important human problem”.

2. Design is context specific (it doesn’t follow historical cliches)

Yes, design is contextual, but some contexts benefit from historical references and familiarity for fast and wide adoption, e.g. iPhone intro.

3. Design enhances human ability (without replacing the human)

Some design problems are better solved by getting the human out of the equation; we’re not work animals.

4. Good design works for everyone, everyday

There’s pretty much nothing that “works for everyone, everyday“.

5. Good tech and design is discreet

Being discreet and solving a design problem can be orthogonal.

6. Good design is a platform that grows with needs and opportunities

Not all design needs to be a platform and not all growth is beneficial in the long run.

7. Good design brings about products and services that build long-term relationships (but don’t create emotional dependency)

The driver of manufactured “emotional dependency” isn’t always design; it’s often a business model that requires it, e.g. Facebook, Zynga, Candy Crush, etc.

8. Good technology design learns and predicts human behavior

Algorithms are by definition exclusionary and mostly normative: “learning” and “prediction” aren’t without a price, e.g. aggressive surveillance by Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc.

9. Good design accelerates new ideas

Not all design requires elaborate contemplation, especially for commodity products.

10. Good design removes complexity from life

Complexity is in the eye of the designer and removal is normative, e.g. Trumpworld.

Incidentally, much of this has nothing to do with “AI” brutally slapped onto the title.

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Daily question: Not how well you read but what you know?

E. D. Hirsch Jr., the author of The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children cites a 1988 experiment in a New York Times op-ed Reading Test Dummies:

Experimenters separated seventh- and eighth-grade students into two groups — strong and weak readers as measured by standard reading tests. The students in each group were subdivided according to their baseball knowledge. Then they were all given a reading test with passages about baseball. Low-level readers with high baseball knowledge significantly outperformed strong readers with little background knowledge. [emp.]

The experiment confirmed what language researchers have long maintained: the key to comprehension is familiarity with the relevant subject. For a student with a basic ability to decode print, a reading-comprehension test is not chiefly a test of formal techniques but a test of background knowledge.

I’m not entirely convinced of his remedy of ‘standardizing’ curricula but, testing being a design problem, the finding above should give us a pause.

Should students be tested only on subjects they are familiar with? Would this punish those students who are exposed to a wider variety of subjects? At what level should tests be “customized”: national, regional, state, city, district, school, student? What’s the value of comprehending texts on un-familiar subjects? Should under-privileged students be graded on a different curve? If so, at what point K-12 should this curve be abandoned? Would such differentiation remove incentives to expand subject matter variety?

Is “reading comprehension” ultimately testable then?

Daily question: Schooled early for safety in numbers?

In Going With the Flow: Preschoolers Prefer Nondissenters as Informants, Harvard University researchers alarm us:

In two experiments, 3- and 4-year-olds were tested for their sensitivity to agreement and disagreement among informants. In pretest trials, they watched as three of four informants (Experiment 1) or two of three informants (Experiment 2) indicated the same referent for an unfamiliar label; the remaining informant was a lone dissenter who indicated a different referent. Asked for their own judgment, the preschoolers sided with the majority rather than the dissenter. In subsequent test trials, one member of the majority and the dissenter remained present and continued to provide conflicting information about the names of unfamiliar objects. Children remained mistrustful of the dissenter. They preferred to seek and endorse information from the informant who had belonged to the majority. [emp] The implications and scope of children’s early sensitivity to group consensus are discussed.

Can this possibly be unfamiliar to anyone who ever sat in a conference room?

Daily question: Is it Greek, Javanese or Heavenly Script to you?

but those that understood him smiled at one another and
shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me

says Shakespeare in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.

But if you are Italian that would be in Ottoman Turkish, if German in Mesopotomian, if Finnish in Pig German, if Arabic in Hindi…Indeed, you might need a map to decipher what’s incomprehensible in other languages:


Of course, if you’re fluent in Esperanto, anything incomprehensible would be in Volapük to you.

Since nearly a half of our readers here are from non-Anglo-Saxon countries:

What’s Volapük to you?

Daily question: Can fonts make you want to exercise less?

From Scientific American:

Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz wanted to see if they could motivate a group of 20-year-old college students to exercise regularly. They gave all the students written instructions for a regular exercise routine, but they used a simple yet ingenious method to make the how-to instructions either cognitively palatable or challenging: some received instructions printed in Arial typeface, a plain font designed for easy reading; others got their instructions printed in a Brush font, which basically looks as if it has been written by hand with a Japanese paintbrush—it is unfamiliar and much harder to read.


The findings were remarkable. Those who had read the exercise instructions in an unadorned, accessible typeface were much more open to the prospect of exercising: they believed that the regimen would take less time and that it would feel more fluid and easy. Most important, they were more willing to make exercise part of their day.

Just to be sure, University of Michigan researchers repeated the experiment with a different activity, cooking:

Again they used easy-and hard-to-read typefaces, but in this case the instructions were for making a Japanese sushi roll. After the volunteers had read the recipe, they estimated how long it would take them to make the dish and whether they were inclined to do it. They were also asked how much skill a professional cook would need to prepare the sushi roll.

The results were basically the same as before.

And they say design doesn’t affect human behavior as much as designers claim!*

Can you think of other ways in which the brain can be tricked to alter the direction of (seemingly) unrelated activities?