Similarities

We often think of newness as something that is created from nowhere–ex nihilo. When we hear about what’s the next biggest trend or product or service, we are led to believe it has to be something never thought up before and we are sadly disappointed that the newness of things is not that big of a deal. We have to understand that when thinking of new ideas, products, or services, instead of looking for differences, try looking at similarities.

Its the similarities that create the relationship that works for us as humans and consumers of new products or services. Designers use the term design semantics. An object has to say something about itself; say something about its larger context; and about the user who interacts with it.

Design semantics is communication through displays of information; graphic elements; shape and texture; and indications of internal state (e.g. battery life left, etc…). In short, a design has to convey what it does. For example, a car has to look like it functions as a car. With typography, the letters have to be readable as letters.

As designers, we have to operate under the premise that people are stupid and consider that when designing each aspect of your work. Don’t make people think too hard. If it takes more energy to interpret your design, then your user will go elsewhere.

Similarities lead to better design semantics and a better experience.

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Habits

We have our habits—good or bad. As humans we are pattern seekers as well as pattern behaving creatures. We are slaves to our habits. After all, we need predictability in our lives in order to survive as a species. We need to know that certain actions cause certain results—when we are hungry, we find something to eat. It’s all about patterns and habits. These are hardwired into our brains from repeated actions and results from child to adult.

Hardwiring consists of physical neural connections. Because of this hardwiring aspect of habits, it becomes very hard to break those habits. The more we do a habit, the more our body reacts in the same way. This is why addictions are so hard to break.

When I look for new forms to keep my design solutions fresh, I’m constantly drawing the same things—my own hardwiring at work. It’s my addiction I strive to break every day of my design life.

To overcome this, I have to create a new neural connection—a new addiction. Maybe I use a new pencil, pen (or stylus), or paper (or iPad). I can’t break an old habit, so I have to replace it with a new one. I have to create a new neural connection. Maybe I’ll start drawing with my off hand. Or, to really go conceptual, maybe we redefine what drawing is. That’s another topic.

That old adage, you can’t teach an old dog a new trick has some physiological truth. Old habits do die hard. But, we can create new ones. It’s time we trick our brains and “Think Different.”

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