Mindful Design

Make better design decisions, for the good of your users.

#3 Product of the DayJanuary 16, 2019

Mindful Design is a book designed to infuse your design process with the understanding and appreciation the human mind deserves, Mindful Design presents a responsible deep dive into the areas of cognitive psychology and neuroscience that can most improve design.

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10 Reviews5.0/5
Hi friends! This book was pretty much my full-time project for the whole of last year and it's something I'm super proud of. (And honestly, mildly terrified to see it go out into the world!) For the last decade, given my struggles with mental health, I've poured over the brain science literature, a million fucking self-help books and more white papers than any non-academic human should probably read, trying to find out why/how things like depression and anxiety come about. Throughout this research, I've been consistently underwhelmed by how design and tech treat the human mind, especially the minds of those of us seen as 'neurodivergent' (fuck that word, but okay). Mindful Design is my attempt at a counterpoint to that. It's the antithesis of the popular 'habit-forming' and 'persuasive' approaches to product design, and presents some alternative thoughts and ideas to the attention economy-driven, pseudo-addictive experiences that are presently put on pedestals. The book explores how we can use the mind's systems, heuristics and idiosyncrasies as inspiration, as muses, rather than as obstacles we must design around or over. One of the key messages within this 380-page fuckshit is that technology should embrace the weird shit that goes on in our heads, that human beings aren't fucking edge-cases, and that designing with choice, freedom, protection, intrinsic motivation and cognitive limitations in mind is one way to a more compassionate design process. Writing a book is hard as fuck. Writing a book when your brain thinks jumping off a bridge is a fun hobby is even harder as fuck. I'm going to be honest and say there's a _lot_ of personal attachment to this, I'm still recovering from the mental toils of the writing and publishing process, but stuff like this should be challenged and prodded so I'll do my best to answer any questions anyone has! Hugs and loves ~ Scott
@scott_riley No questions, but I wanted to say thank you for writing this! Was an instant buy for me and I can't wait to dig in. The relationship between mental health + tech is something I'm personally heavily invested in, and such an important subject. Will be sharing this around our team, too.
@trybradley Thanks so much, Bradley <3 Totally agree, mental health discourse in design is so important. I think (and hope) that a larger dialogue around design's role in the MH landscape is opening up and I'm excited for times when such a difficult, visceral topic can be tackled from different angles by talented and compassionate designers. Hopefully Mindful Design can offer reference or perspective on this discussion, even in the tiniest way!
@scott_riley Without a doubt - hopefully that time is coming soon. Our biggest focus this year is to look at our products impact on MH - not only everyday products, but designing products for MH. Mindful Design will definitely be a reference point for us. Overall, I believe technology has a huge amount of potential to help people suffering from mental illness, that for the most part hasn't come to light. I'm excited to see it being talked about more, and hopeful for a change in industry focusses and priorities.
What a fantastic idea, just ordered. Great work Scott! PS: what are your favourite books / apps / interviews etc about mindfulness in general?
@zorzini Thanks so much Catalin! Some of my favourite resources: Books: - 'How to be Human' and 'Frazzled' by Ruby Wax - 'Full Time You' by Meg Lewis - 'Emptiness' by Guy Armstrong - 'Calm Technology' by Amber Case - 'The Organized Mind' by Daniel Levintin Apps: - Calm - Headspace - 10% Happier - Day One - iA writer (for distraction-free journalling) Podcasts: - Lawrence Ampofo's Digital Mindfulness Other tools: - Bullet Journaling - Therapy - Yoga I'm probs missing tonnes but that's what I've got off the top of my head!
@scott_riley Great stuff, thanks Scott!
Super interested in reading this! I've been exploring this topic in my head for ages, today's design does much more harm than good :(
@thewzrdharry I think a lot of the mainstream design practices out there definitely couldn't claim to be making a net positive on the world. Tech as a whole harms, oppresses and manipulates because it's used as a tool within an oligarchal power structure; but I truly believe that technology and design (as a tool for simplifying complex systems) can democratise and empower and bring about societal shifts for the better. It starts with compassion, and a refusal from the inside to implement negligent or oppressive practices, products or systems. Technology that exists to augment and ease human nature is going to be more and more important in this, and I really hope we can break free from the bullshit of behaviourism in design and explore what it really means to aide in self-determination and cognitive unburdening. So yeah, I agree, but I'm hopeful and invested in changing this, because the alternative is a dystopian capitalist hellscape where everyone but the already-powerful are subservient to technology. And fuck that.
@scott_riley you've summed that up as if you've just finished writing a book. And agreed, fuck that. How do you go about finding clients and companies that share the same values as you? And are you ever faced with the situation of having to take on work that you don't fully align with, so that you can still pay the bills?
@thewzrdharry I talk openly about the stuff and I ask clients directly if they've explored the social and real-world impact of their products. And nope, I definitely don't work in my own little utopia where every project I take on is this hugely impactful, humanistic life-giver; but I do have a list of companies and types of companies that I flat out refuse to work with. I'd never take a project on that I thought exploitative, but I realise I'm privileged to be in this position. Getting clients is a process of many layers of filtration, and part of that filtration, for me, is figuring out how clients see their product impacting people and what precautions they have in place to avoid becoming bad dickheads. If the product is fun, and they satisfy my ethical/moral/personal filters, then I'm happy to work with people.
@scott_riley awesome, appreciate the responses and best of luck with the book. I'll definitely be picking one up πŸ‘
Hi @scott_riley. Thanks for writing this book, and thanks for being so honest about your struggles with mental health. I'm curious if, at the outset, you considered self-publishing, and if your position has changed now that the book is out. Thanks again, excited to read your book, and congrats on the launch!
@ajsharp Hey Alex! I absolutely did consider self-publishing, it was my initial plan, and the introduction in this book existed for a good couple of years before I signed my publishing deal. Being published by a third-party is a huge tradeoff, but I was lucky to have an amazing editorial team who saw the vision behind the book, I can categorically say that outside of removing a few rogue 'fuck' words and American-izing the language, this book is almost untouched from a tone and idea perspective, the editorial decisions were an absolute net positive and I'm so grateful for them. On the flip side, working with a bigger publisher (Apress are owned by Springer Nature) brings a whole host of bureaucracy during the actual publishing phase, and I'm honestly not sure I'd have been less stressed if I was chasing small batches of printed books myself (but that's me, I get anxious when I can't control things, or they're opaque for bureaucratic reasons). What I did get however is a pretty seamless path to Amazon, and Prime delivery, as well as being able to hide from distribution logistics completely once the book was actually printed and available. If I was going to write another book, it would be shorter, for one! And I'd hire good editors, because an amazing editor is an incredible ally when writing. I'd probably attempt to self-publish, but find a way to outsource the delivery and sales logistics for a cut of the book sales. I'm glad I went with a publisher, I struck gold with my editors, and I wouldn't change this book, even though I know it's far from perfect; but it's a balancing act, royalties can be low for first-time authors, but you get a network that may be unavailable to you; distribution prep feels opaque and arbitrary, but you don't have to run the fucking post office every other day to send people books. I love the idea of self-publishing too, and I think if I ever get the urge to write another book I would consider it, having more creative control (over things like design and typesetting, not over the words) is the big pull of that, as is a much higher cut of the profits if the book is a success.
@scott_riley Can't thank you enough for your transparency and honesty. This is all so insightful on the publishing process. It's so appreciated.
@ajsharp @scott_riley "working with a bigger publisher (Apress are owned by Springer Nature) brings a whole host of bureaucracy during the actual publishing phase"... brings back bad memories of my much skinnier LevelDB book published by Packt. Their strict Word-style-based production system, coupled with the nightmare of word-wrapping Objective-C samples, just about killed me.
Are all the f bombs really necessary?
@rmagrino is that comment really necessary?