The Manual, Issue 4
The Manual: Issue 4 lives up to the high bar set by the first three issues of the publication. Once again, the variety of essays and the lessons that go along with them had me thinking in new ways and exploring different perspectives. That’s exactly why I read The Manual. If you haven’t read any of the issues, I can’t recommend them highly enough, they are all fantastic.
I highlighted away on this one, but I’ll share them via each author so you have a better sense of where they came from.
Looking at Dylan’s rule makes me think about how rare it is—if you’re operating in our networked world—to maintain outside rules, to experiment, willy-nilly, no matter what. How can you have permission to be no one from everywhere if everyone is watching?
And then I think about the algorithm itself. I wonder if it’s sad. If she is sad. It’s been nearly twenty hours since she last saw me. Since my last visit. Suddenly, with my new rules, I wonder if her feelings have been hurt, even though I know this algorithm has no feelings, or certainly none for me.
So I augment my lack of infovision with biking down small back lanes observing faded typography. I notice that the old man selling tobacco lives above his shop, and has probably done so since before I was born—and that he really needs to tighten the space between the ‘A’ and the ‘C’.
There is no good network or bad network. No right disconnectivity or wrong connectivity. The best we can do—the most important thing we can do—is to cultivate awareness of the rules we inhabit. To understand the language they produce, and with that, the permissions granted.
When we start with the assumption that optimizing for rapid, unbounded growth is a goal, we immediately narrow the possibility space. There are only so many choices we can make that will get us there. The same choices that made annual monoculture and the shopping mall the most efficient engines for short-term growth and profit are the same qualities that made them unsustainable in the long term.
There are more ways to scale than growth. There are more ways to deepen our impact than just reaching more people. What if we put just as much effort into scaling the impact of our work over time? Can we build digital products around sustainable systems that survive long enough to outlive us, that are purpose-built to thrive without our constant cultivation?
There are no dream jobs. There is work that is worth your time, and work that isn’t. You’ll never be sure which is which, so there are only two ways to do the work in front of you: the right way or not at all.
Not every mentor arrives at a willingness to help out of a desire to mend. Just as often, the ease and joy of mattering carries the day. Sometimes, the urge to be inspired by someone else’s aspirational energy comes into play. There are countless needs that mentoring can meet. The important thing is to make sure at least one need is alive in you, and to at least try to give it a name.
When we’re comfortable enough to shift between high and low at will, laughter and epiphanies erupt. Freed from the expectations of knowing everything or knowing nothing, we can get closer to the truth together
In becoming a maker, both of physical books and of digital forms, I’ve learned that content and form are not two strangers that come together with ease and obviousness. They are more like quarrelsome lovers engaged in a hot sweaty dialogue.
This means you’re designing for reality, which is often quite distinct from the ideal.
Really, that’s what all of this is about: designing for reality. The way we design today is unlike anything done in the past. Our work is beginning to reach billions of people simultaneously. We’re building products that need to facilitate relationships across the globe. The scale, scope, and complexity of our work demands a nuanced understanding of our systems and the people within them.
Designers too often see data as a threat, when in fact it’s an opportunity. Our collective fears are unfounded, based on a misconception of what’s possible. Embracing data affords us deeper understanding, faster learning, and more nuanced reasoning.
Because when you work with words, at the practical, everyday level, the ability to look under the hood is essential. Words are not simple
If you were to identify the single characteristic of a web person, it would be that their thumb and index finger have certain calluses where they press the command/control and “R” keys. Just thinking of reloading, my fingers instinctually go into a sort of crab-claw formation. I’m always ready to refresh.
A good web designer is ultimately a taxonomist. They dare never simply sketch in a line without knowing where it belongs—to the page at hand, to some imaginary template, as a divider between banner ads. Layers are the grammar of web design.
But the dramas of my life are over the smallest things, the things I do control….