The Fast and Slow of Design

Mark Boulton encourages us to think more deeply about our design systems, adding the important factor of time to their structure. Boulton cites Stewart Brand’s model of the world as a set of layers, each of which moves at its own pace:

The part of this diagram I like the most is that it forces you to think in time instead of other ways of organising things. As this relates to design, time – or rather longevity – is not generally a consideration. Like much of our lives, modern design gravitates to those upper layers of commerce and fashion. We get paid well to make desirable things that people consume. Once we’re done with one thing, we move onto the next.

Boulton then takes Brand’s model and applies it to design systems, identifying various layers that aren’t often made explicit in such systems.

The overall point? “Structure for pace. Move at the appropriate speed.” may be a better guiding phrase than “Move fast, break things. Fail forward. Fail fast. Always be shipping.” Yes, it’s more boring, but boring and careful is usually the better option when you’re shaping the world.

Aside from this main point, a few other bits stuck out to me:

  • I ought to read more Stewart Brand.
  • Boulton ends a description of executive focus on speed and profits with “Capitalism, right?” which I love as a hand-wavy shorthand for the artificial obligations created by our global economic system.
  • When discussing his family’s new (to them, actually very old) house, he described it as “A place we could grow old in”, which is a lovely thought.

9:54 pm on December 23, 2018