Alexandria — Issue #007: The Elegance of Nothing

Adam Sadowski
5 min readAug 2, 2019


A bi-weekly newsletter dedicated to bringing you the best content related to design, technology, and entrepreneurship.

This edition’s feature challenges the industry’s celebration of practicing empathy in business and product design and instead suggests that we should be building relationships around trust.

Next, we dive into a brief dissection of what a brand is in the current day and the role that design plays in delivering a specific experience, brush up on key principles for practicing and implementing ethical design on a daily basis, examine the state of providing feedback in the public domain, and get a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to design for mindfulness on devices that are generally seen as anti-mindful (see: your phone).

The second half has a copywriter give designers great tips for communicating their value and services, explores the history of color through specific diagrams, presents research and findings for how to conduct interviews with users, and wraps up with a fantastic book from Basecamp on how to run a company, an examination of the expectations of modern happiness and success, and tips for how to better manage your time.

For resources, we have a variety of tools that will help you be more productive (Cold Turkey, Magnet, and Alfred), easily make high-quality GIFs from videos (Stacc), and a brilliant tool (TripMode) that gives you the ability to control which of your computer’s apps can connect to the internet.

As always, thanks so much for reading!


Featured Article

Trust is the New Empathy

At best, empathy allows for an understanding of where the other stands and their circumstances; at worst, it allows for a smug feeling of care and engagement. But in both cases, there is nothing at stake: You can walk away at any moment and retreat to the safety of your life while still having that fuzzy feeling of being “enlightened.”

More Amazing Reads

The Elegance of Nothing

Design is the new marketing. It is the product itself, not the ads or the slogan. Design is the supply chain of Patagonia, the ethics of Purple Carrot and the customer service at Union Square Cafe. It’s design, not advertising, that turned Apple into the most valuable luxury brand (and the most valuable company) in the world.

Daily Ethical Design

…In other words, ethical design is about the “goodness” — in terms of benefit to individuals, society, and the world — of how we collaborate, how we practice our work, and what we create. There’s never a black-and-white answer for whether design is good or bad, yet there are a number of areas for designers to focus on when considering ethics.

The State of Public Design Discourse

Sharing feedback in public is often fraught with anxieties: you’re likely not the target audience, the team probably went through countless iterations to land the product where it did, and their decisions must be grounded on research that you don’t have access to. So, it becomes natural to assume best intentions and refrain from giving feedback at all. This deprives the team and your audience of a valuable learning opportunity.

Vicki Tan: Designing for Mindfulness

What are some of the challenges in designing a mindfulness product that is often intended for a device that is basically anti-mindfulness? We speak to Vicki Tan, a senior product designer at Headspace.

Writing Tips for Selling Your Design Services

The sales techniques explained in this article are ones I’ve gathered over four years of running a copywriting business helping my clients sell with words. They’re used widely by copywriters on their personal or business websites because they get results — more leads, better clients, and easier sales.

How Color Works, According to 4 Brilliant Old Diagrams

For as long as we have existed, humans have tried to make sense of color. Back when our limited color options included crushed up minerals, early humans created systems for organizing pigments on makeshift palettes. “Any artist who’s ever worked with pigments has had to create order out of color,” says color theorist and historian Alexandra Loske. “Even cave men painting the walls had to put their colors in order.”

Why User Interviews Fail

User interviews are an important generative method for UX. Generative methods (like interviews and focus groups) produce knowledge. In contrast, evaluative methods (like a usability test of a draft design) test hypotheses. When interviews are done well, we learn about our users’: thoughts, beliefs, mental models, and experiences.

SHAPE UP: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters

This book is a guide to how we do product development at Basecamp. It’s also a toolbox full of techniques that you can apply in your own way to your own process.

Whether you’re a founder, CTO, product manager, designer, or developer, you’re probably here because of some common challenges that all software companies have to face.

It’s Never Too Late to Be Successful and Happy

“What I suggest is that parents, schools, employers, the media, and consumers of media are now crazily over-celebrating early achievement as the best kind of achievement or even the only kind. We do so at the cost of shaming the late bloomer and thus shortchanging people and society.” — Rich Karlgaard

Our 6 Must Reads for Honing Focus and Managing Your Time

The first few weeks of a new quarter bring a predictable pattern: We look back on past goals and set our sights on fresh, new ambitions. But while plans are projected in months, we know the true progress happens by the week, day and hour — where all the distraction traps are laid and it’s easier to lose your way.


Cold Turkey — The Toughest Website Blocker on the Internet

Other website blockers are too easy to cheat. That’s why you’ll love Cold Turkey. By default, when you start a block, there’s no turning back.

Stacc — Easily Make GIFS

Stacc is an application to convert video files into high quality Gifs. It uses FFMPEG with complex filters to make more aware decisions about your conversion, meaning the filesize can stay down, but the quality can still look like the input video.

Magnet — Window Manager for Mac

Activated by dragging, customizable keyboard shortcuts or via menu bar, Magnet declutters your screen by snapping windows into organized tiles.

TripMode — Save Mobile Data On the Go

A PC and Mac app that helps you save mobile data when on the go. It stops online backups, updates, photos syncs, etc. from using data in background.

Alfred — Award Winning Productivity App

Alfred is a productivity application for macOS, which boosts your efficiency with hotkeys, keywords and text expansion. Search your Mac and the web, and control your Mac using custom actions with the Powerpack.

Vanilla — Hide Menu Bar Icons

Vanilla is a free Mac app that lets you hide icons from your menu bar.