Alexandria — Issue #019: Design’s Unsexy Middle Bits

Adam Sadowski
5 min readFeb 9, 2020


Featured Article


Design’s Unsexy Middle

“In How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Design Thinking, I wrote about how I learned to value design thinking and in Five Habits of Design Thinking I explain how you can build the skill of design thinking. But I’ve noticed my students tend to use the term “design thinking” as a synonym for UX/Digital Product Design. This is a dangerous smallification of design and a source of shoddy work.”

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“The process described in this article will work for various scopes of redesign — from a feature or view level to full application redesigns. These recommendations will help you avoid pitfalls and deliver value fast, and are based on the experience we gained from hundreds of redesigns, bumps, and bruises along the way.”

How Do the Colorblind Think and Talk About Color?

“To the colorblind the name of a color is often irrelevant. They think in groups; blue/green/grey, orange/red/brown, black/green/grey. Naming a color is a frustrating process, prone to mistake. Something can without a doubt be green, but most of the time you really can’t be sure. Suddenly buying this shirt came to be about one of the great questions of life: what color is asphalt?”

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A Short History of Body Copy Sizes on the Web

“It’s hard to pick a font size that is just right, especially as you try to adapt to different screens and scenarios. Looking at the recent history of how we got here can give us some perspective.”

Standards for Writing Accessibly

“Writing to meet WCAG2 standards can be a challenge, but it’s worthwhile. Albert Einstein, the archetypical genius and physicist, once said, “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

Beyond Facts: Divergent Thinking

“When trying to solve a problem, we often tend to look for useful facts that may guide us to the “correct” answer. This type of thinking — called convergent thinking — works great when the problem we want to solve is clear and requires a reasonable solution. But for bigger, more complex problems, convergent thinking may be too limited. By focusing on existing facts to get to a specific answer, we are likely to miss some interesting solutions. Divergent thinking is all about exploring many ideas based on a question, creating unexpected connections, and encouraging spontaneity.”

8 Tips for Better Negotiation — or, How to Gain a Magical Superpower

“The truth is negotiation is not magic. It can even be learned from a book. Furthermore with this new understanding, where previously I might look upon “tough negotiators” with respect and admiration for their gall and negotiation skill, I now see confident amateurs losing opportunities for better deals. Where previously I have felt my negotiation skills were weak, by patiently following a few simple steps I’ve been able to get what I’ve wanted faster and smoother, whilst helping my counterpart achieve their goals too.”

How to Give a Great Presentation: Timeless Advice from a Legendary Adman, 1981

“On your way out after a speech, do you remember ever thinking it was good — but a little too short? Most good talks take less than twenty minutes. Consider what you have so often had to sit through, and how much better it could have been said in few words.”

What You Should Be Working On

“You will learn that it’s not admirable to endlessly hustle with your head down. That’s only commendable in the short-term. In the long term, it’s a laziness — you’re riding the momentum of busywork, which blinds you to change. What is admirable is periodically killing your momentum to ask, Should I still be doing this? It hurts to ask this question regularly and earnestly.”

3 Tricks to Start Working Despite Not Feeling Like It

“Ever wish you felt like creating that presentation? Felt like doing that research? Felt like doing the dishes? Most of us do. It’s easy to start when we feel like it. Unfortunately, we often don’t. We don’t feel ready. We don’t feel like the work is going to be good enough. We don’t feel like we have the motivation. The list goes on. But here’s the thing: we don’t have to feel like it to start. We can start writing, even if we think the words are rubbish”

Different Kinds of Easy

““Easy” makes a good story. It’s short, persuasive, and comforting. But it’s a deceiving story. Everything worthwhile has a cost, so few things worth pursuing are even a shade of easy. The idea that things look easier than they are applies to many fields and explains many headaches. It’s prevalent in investing, where competition collides with luck in a way that makes a hard task (outperformance) occasionally look easy.”

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“Dr Patricia Linville from the psychology department at Duke University found that the narrower our vision of self, the more prone we are to depression and anxiety. She calls this concept “self-complexity” — our perceived knowledge of ourselves, based on the number of distinct aspects we believe we possess. Goals, relationships, and activities are all part of a network forming our sense of self.”


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