Alexandria — Issue #012: Kindness Over Cleverness

Adam Sadowski
6 min readOct 9, 2019


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

This edition kicks off with a simple but thought-provoking lesson transcribed from a speech that Jeff Bezos gave in 2010: it’s harder to be kind than it is to be clever. Two equally important pieces follow — the first is a brutally honest dissection of what drives us to make short-term and long-term decisions, and the second explores what it means to be “tough” in finding time to relax and recharge.

We’ll also jump into some design-focused content. We examine the use and efficacy of deceptive design practices (dark patterns); a brand new platform launched by global design agency IDEO that helps you and your team build, test, and refine ideas; a handy reference guide for designing interfaces for older audiences; and an excellent, thorough cross-examination of the design process for Android versus iOS.

We also include a few thoughts around communication. First are some quick tips on how to approach a meeting over coffee and make sure you’re not wasting anyone’s time — including your own. Second, we study a collection of copywriting examples to learn what makes them effective. And lastly, we finish with how the military approaches and formats communication. At ease soldier!

For resources, we have an awesome, albeit creepy, website for downloading AI-generated faces that can be used for designs or marketing materials, a new platform design by IDEO (see: second paragraph) for testing and validating your ideas, a gallery of web design history spanning from 1991–2006, and a platform for front-end developers to store and manage their UI components.

Thanks so much for reading!


Featured Article

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“What Matters More Than Your Talents” by Jeff
My grandfather was a highly intelligent, quiet man. He had never said a harsh word to me, and maybe this was to be the first time? Or maybe he would ask that I get back in the car and apologize to my grandmother. I had no experience in this realm with my grandparents and no way to gauge what the consequences might be. We stopped beside the trailer. My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

More Amazing Reads

You’re Not Lazy, Bored, or Unmotivated

“I’m not motivated” is never a true statement. Not motivated to do what? Work? In that case, aren’t you motivated to avoid it? Every action human beings ever take is driven by some kind of incentive, whether it’s money, or happiness, or peace, or satisfying your conscience. Your motivation may not always be obvious, but it’s always there.

Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure
The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. This conclusion is based on biology. Homeostasis is a fundamental biological concept describing the ability of the brain to continuously restore and sustain well-being. Positive neuroscientist Brent Furl from Texas A&M University coined the term “homeostatic value” to describe the value that certain actions have for creating equilibrium, and thus wellbeing, in the body. When the body is out of alignment from overworking, we waste a vast amount of mental and physical resources trying to return to balance before we can move forward.

Deceptive Design is Illegal Now, So Why Are You Still Getting Swindled?
We’ve all been there before: you’re browsing through your favorite online store and a pop-up window appears with an alert reading, “Only three items left! Buy now!” We can’t know for sure if the shop’s inventory is actually running low, but if the message triggers a desire to purchase the item ASAP for fear of losing out, congratulations, you’re experiencing something known as the Scarcity Principle, a concept in social psychology and economics that means we place a greater value on objects we perceive to be in short supply or high demand. It’s one of the many behavioral responses marketers, advertisers, and user experience designers often exploit to increase revenue, and to those in the UX industry it’s called a dark pattern. So what does it take for a visually persuasive design to go over to the dark side, and become manipulative?

A New Tool for Testing Your Design Concepts Ethically
How many people can you reach online with $5, a few hours, and limited advertising expertise? During a recent early-stage concept test, we found an answer: more than 2,000. Our goal was to get our prototype into the world prior to launching it to gain a better understanding of how the concept would be received in the market.

A Guide to Interface Design for Older Adults
Older adults don’t need a ton of compensation to feel comfortable using an application. Following best practices and usability guidelines, in general, will go a long way toward making products accessible to all users, regardless of age or any physical or cognitive impairments (age-related or otherwise). Designers should make additional compensations for older adults in applications specifically geared toward them-things like larger fonts, more intuitive interface elements, clear wording, and helpful tips for functionality-it will only improve their user experience.

Differences Between Designing Native iOS Apps and Native Android Apps
To create the best native app design, you should bear in mind the differences between the iOS and Android platforms. These platforms differ not only in terms of what native applications look like; they also differ in terms of the structure and flow. You need to keep these differences in mind to provide the best user experience through the native application design.

10 Tips for an Awesome Coffee Meeting
If the concept of a coffee meeting is foreign to you, you only have to remember one guiding principle: never, ever waste the other person’s time. They are providing their time, their most precious resource. The good news is that the bar for coffee meetings is pretty low. Most creatives can likely tell you of meetings that started with “let’s grab coffee” and ended in an unproductive conversation. However, you’re better than that, dear reader. Here’s how to be the best coffee meeting participant around.

10 World-Class Copywriting Examples You Need to Add to Your Swipe File
You can easily become a better copywriter by collecting good copywriting examples; that’s enough for many aspiring wordsmiths and it might be for you, too. But if you want to master the craft, and turn contacts into customers without objection, you need to become fascinated. You need to rip your favorite examples apart and examine them, line by line, word by word. Today, I’ll show you how to do that.

BLUF: The Military Standard That Can Make Your Writing More Powerful
While the decisions you make may not be life-or-death, you probably also spend a lot of your time communicating with people who are busy, whose time is valuable, and who deserve at least the same level of consideration. That’s why BLUF is such a useful model. Whether you’re writing for your company’s blog, writing Slack messages to co-workers, or writing emails to customers, BLUF can help you cut through the noise and connect.


100,000 AI-Generated Faces — Free to Download!
Explore our free resource of 100k high-quality faces, each entirely generated by AI. Use them in your projects, mockups, or wherever — all for just a link back to us!

Shape — Build, Test, and Refine Your Ideas
Create visual spaces to brainstorm a new idea or share design inspiration across an organization. Develop your early ideas in a collaborative space, and easily request feedback directly within the platform.

Gallery of Web Design History

Browse through the gallery of websites created between 1991 and 2006 and discover the forgotten web design trends.

Storybook: UI Component Explorer for Frontend Developers
Storybook is an open source tool for developing UI components in isolation for React, Vue, and Angular. It makes building stunning UIs organized and efficient.