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Xbox design sprint, etc

June 25 · Issue #34 · View online
Design Sprint Newsletter
Hey there!

This newsletter is another bunch of links I found interesting. There isn’t a theme or anything. Well, maybe the theme is “this newsletter is very long” because it is. In fact it’s so long I better advertise my August 7 workshop in Austin right here. Now… rambling and links!!
Recently somebody asked me how inclusive design might fit with design sprints, and I’m embarrassed to admit I knew so little about the term “inclusive design” that I had to Google it.

During my search, I came across this video of the Xbox team running an inclusive design sprint, led by superstar designer August de los Reyes (who’s been head of design at Xbox, head of design at Pinterest, and is now a design director at Google, jeez!).

The video is great. It shows how the Xbox team worked alongside a few customers and came up with feature ideas they could generalize for a wide audience. I’ve historically been against having customers in the room during a design sprint because it’s hard not to overreact to their ideas and opinions. This video proves me wrong—or at least, it provides a really clear example of how to do it right. It also shows why inclusive design matters in a way that I honestly didn’t quite get before. Cool stuff.

Note: if you’re interested in inclusive design, Microsoft seems to have the best resources.

I read this New Yorker article a few months ago but I just can’t stop thinking about this astonishing description of the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs:

Within two minutes of slamming into Earth, the asteroid, which was at least six miles wide, had gouged a crater about eighteen miles deep and lofted twenty-five trillion metric tons of debris into the atmosphere. Picture the splash of a pebble falling into pond water, but on a planetary scale.
Whoa, so, like, the surface of the earth splashed like water? That’s crazy.

When Earth’s crust rebounded, a peak higher than Mt. Everest briefly rose up.

The energy released was more than that of a billion Hiroshima bombs, but the blast looked nothing like a nuclear explosion, with its signature mushroom cloud. Instead, the initial blowout formed a “rooster tail,” a gigantic jet of molten material, which exited the atmosphere,
The molten material exited the atmosphere!?

some of it fanning out over North America. Much of the material was several times hotter than the surface of the sun, and it set fire to everything within a thousand miles. In addition, an inverted cone of liquefied, superheated rock rose, spread outward as countless red-hot blobs of glass, called tektites, and blanketed the Western Hemisphere.
At this point, I’m not even shocked, you know? Red-hot blobs of glass blanket the Western Hemisphere? Sure, fine. I’m getting used to the planetary scale of destruction… or so I think.

Then the next paragraph:

Some of the ejecta escaped Earth’s gravitational pull and went into irregular orbits around the sun. Over millions of years, bits of it found their way to other planets and moons in the solar system. Mars was eventually strewn with the debris—just as pieces of Mars, knocked aloft by ancient asteroid impacts, have been found on Earth. A 2013 study in the journal Astrobiology estimated that tens of thousands of pounds of impact rubble may have landed on Titan, a moon of Saturn, and on Europa and Callisto, which orbit Jupiter—three satellites that scientists believe may have promising habitats for life. Mathematical models indicate that at least some of this vagabond debris still harbored living microbes. The asteroid may have sown life throughout the solar system, even as it ravaged life on Earth.
Okay wait, what, what, WHAT!!?! The asteroid blasted stuff from earth’s surface to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and that stuff had microbes on it, and those microbes might’ve survived the trip and started life on other planets… WHAT?!

And that’s just a tiny fraction of the article. If you want to kill about an hour now (reading) and many more hours in the future (staring into space while contemplating the enormity of the universe, the fantastic luck and delicate nature of life, and the unknowable mysteries of your own existence) you should click this link.

Or if that’s too much for you, pull the eject lever and click here to learn why He-Man rides a tiger.

Dan Weingrod shares what he discovered in six months of remote design sprints, and Rohan Perera writes about lessons from thirteen design sprints in five months (including thoughts about 4-day vs. 5-day).

Jason Yuan’s Mercury OS is a really cool project based on one big question: what would happen if you redesigned an OS from the ground up, scrapping the desktop metaphor entirely?

My first reaction upon reading this post was awe—the design work is beautiful and the thinking is excellent. Maybe a noun-verb interface could free us from constantly reacting to feeds, streams, and inboxes!

My second reaction was “It’ll never work!” One thing I’ve learned from design sprints is how physical space helps our brains keep track of stuff. The desktop’s boring grid of icons and boring layered windows allow us to use spatial memory, and that’s tough to beat. Plus, the Mercury OS prototype doesn’t show a very wide variety of activities, so it’s easy to wonder “well what about app x, y, and z?”

But my third reaction was, oh jeez, I’ve become a cynical jerk. Maybe I’ve had my heart broken too many times by too many design concepts. Maybe I’m just jealous of Jason’s awesome work—if a new grad does something like this, has the guts to follow through, and succeeds, wouldn’t it be kind of embarrassing for people like me who have been in tech for 20 years pushing pixels around on the old systems?

Hmm. Well, yeah, Mercury OS probably won’t take over the world. But you never know. I remember people saying smartphones had to have physical keyboards because their research showed nobody would type on a touchscreen. Well guess what? Probably around three trillion humans are typing on touchscreens at this very second.

“It’ll never work!” is the safe thing to say, because 99 times out of 100 it’s true. I hope this is the 100th time. Heck, whenever somebody tries something cool and bold that might make life a bit better, we should all hope it’s the 100th time. Otherwise we’re just waiting around to get hit by another asteroid. Good luck Jason!

Yes, I know I already linked to it above, but you’ve read so much that you deserve another advertisement. It’s a one-day design sprint workshop on August 7 and you can buy tickets here.


Thanks for reading, and for putting up with another newsletter format experiment. If you like this newsletter, consider sharing it with a friend. If you don’t like this newsletter, print it out, then recycle it. Haha, I made you waste even more time!

Seriously though, let me know what you think of the rambling format.

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