Reading and other things I enjoyed in February

I always enjoy recommendations of new things to read, watch or listen to from favorite bloggers, but I’ve never developed the habit of publishing any recommendations of my own. This is my first attempt at changing that. Let’s see how it goes …

Teenage Engineering and creativity (article)

I’m not a musician and I don’t own any equipment made by Teenage Engineering, but like many, I have long-admired their approach to design. You don’t have to be a designer or musician to appreciate how well they make absolutely beautiful, functional objects—the clean lines, the colors(!), the immediate tactility of it all. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that I found this interview with the founder of Teenage Engineering on his personal creative space, as well as his his life philosophy around creativity deeply fascinating. In particular, I loved his take on slow growth and it’s impact on product quality—an attitude we could use a lot more of right now:

Right now, there is a certain cultural fascination with fast growth, IPOs and so on, but I want to go slow, really slow and think long-term. It takes time to do good things. You see, this cultural phenomenon of speed and growth at all costs is displayed in every startup, they all look the same, it’s like fast food: it looks good, its taste it’s consistent but then you feel horrible afterwards.

Design systems and designer-developer workflows (articles)

I shared Josh Clark’s Ship Faster by Building Design Systems Slower with the Spectrum engineering team at Adobe, and it elicited a strong positive reaction from several of my team members. Multiple people pinged me on Slack to express how much they enjoyed this piece. I’m glad. I’ve long-maintained that design systems are part of front-end infrastructure, and building infrastructure well means “going slow to go fast.”

I also enjoyed Rune Madsen’s take on how working with completely different toolsets is a source of friction between design and engineering teams in The Gulf Between Design and Engineering:

The most crucial mistake in the collaboration between designers and engineers happens when we conflate this division of tools with a need for a strong division of labor.

As someone who learned programming in Flash, which is a radically interdisciplinary hybrid programming-design tool, I have much more to say on this subject. Another time.

How Big Things Get Done (book)

How Big Things Get Done by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner which examines how big, complex projects—from major construction to IT to transportation to space exploration projects—succeed or fail at delivering, as promised, on time, and on budget. The book is full of fascinating stories on projects like the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, failed home remodels, nuclear power projects and more. Slowness as a virtue appears as a recurring theme here too! Flyvbjerg and Gardner advise taking time with upfront planning, “thinking slow” and “acting fast” when approaching on new big projects. There’s a lot to revisit here, and lessons to draw from that are directly applicable to software development.

Bluey (article)

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m fond of telling people why I think Bluey is by far the best children’s programming in production today. If you’re a parent you probably already know—it’s a show that somehow manages to make you both laugh and cry in a mere 7 minutes. It was nice to stumble on an article that reaffirms my position, and so poignently articulates how they manage to pull this off in such a seemingly simple children’s cartoon, time and time again.

Nai Nai & Wài Pó (short film)

Nai Nai & Wài Pó was a beautiful, fun, brief, weird, and totally unexpected reflection on friendship, family and aging. Definitely worth watching.

Parting quote

Life requires time and effort. That is to say, when we eliminate time and effort, we eliminate life’s pleasures.

— Shunmyō Masuno