The Creative MBA #11
The Ship of Theseus, Gestalt closure, 5 steps to "dating" your customer, typeface vs. font, and the magnificent Garcia House
I used to think art had to be great to be worthwhile; now, I only think it has to *be* to be worthwhile.
Welcome back to Better by Design, the only place on the internet where philosophical thought experiments lead off for beautiful architecture tours.
I’ve been busy reconnecting with old friends in LA this week, but along the way, I also got to speak with a few Better by Designers digitally! A big shout-out to Raika Sarkett, Chase Adams, and Kevin Rollinson for taking a few minutes to chat with me. Go check out their work! 🤩
In today’s more isolated world, I believe that bringing together and supporting creative communities is as important as it’s ever been and I’m so grateful for the good vibes we’re creating here. So, if you also want to say hello, I’ve opened a few weekly slots on my calendar specifically for low-key coffee chats with subscribers! I hope to meet more of you soon!
Social & Behavioral Science
The Ship of Theseus
The "Ship of Theseus" is a philosophical thought experiment that explores the concept of identity and the persistence of objects over time. It raises questions about the nature of an object's identity when its components are gradually replaced.
The thinking goes like this: Theseus, a mythical Greek hero, had a ship that was kept in perfect condition by replacing its old, worn-out parts with new ones. Over time, all the original parts of the ship were replaced. The question then arises: is the ship still the same ship as before, or is it a new, different ship?
As a person who designs software, I often think about this paradox. Modern software is constantly changing and being rebuilt. It’s one of its greatest strengths and yet also poses real challenges. The designs I made when I first joined my current company in 2021 are mostly long gone, replaced by new and improved versions. The transient nature of the work can be perplexing. So while I don’t have many answers for you, I can at least introduce you to the concept to think about it with me 🤓.
What is the significance of the original design for software knowing that it will inevitably change and be replaced?
What are some examples of software that fundamentally changed after its initial design?
How much change can software undergo before it’s considered a completely different product?
WandaVision scene (Pop culture cameo!)
The Ship of Theseus - Jennifer Wang (YouTube video)
The Ship of Theseus Strategy - Excerpt from Better by Design #3, “The 3 ways I've tried to land a design system into existing software”
The Gestalt principle of closure refers to the human brain's tendency to perceive incomplete shapes, patterns, or objects as complete and whole, even when gaps or spaces are present.
While closure applies to potentially any visual design, there are some great examples from logo design that I think do a good job of reinforcing its potential power. By using incomplete shapes or elements that the viewer's mind will automatically complete, logo designers can create a lot of visual interest while keeping the forms simple.
I included a few of the famous brand logos that use closure above. What others can you think of?
Improve Your Designs With The Principles Of Closure And Figure-Ground - John Hensley
Gestalt Similarity - CMBA #2
5 steps to “dating” your customer
In his book Permission Marketing, Seth Godin introduces a simple and useful framework for thinking about how to elevate the permission you have with your customer over time. He calls it the 5 steps to “dating” your customer.
I like the 5 steps because they’re straightforward and, frankly, good advice for building all sorts of mutually beneficial relationships in your life.
As Seth describes, the 5 steps are:
Offer an incentive to volunteer their contact info
Give them some reason to go on the first date
Offer a curriculum over time, teaching them about your product or service
It’s an opportunity to sell them on a second date and teach them about specific ways your offering might help them
Reinforce the incentive by consistently providing value to maintain permission
Continuing to show up builds trust
Increase the level of permission you receive from the customer
Offer extra incentives to gain even more permission over time
Leverage the permission into a profitable situation for both of you
In this case, you probably get money and they get something from you in exchange (a product, service, etc…).
Typeface vs. Font
Let’s quickly squash one of design Twitter's biggest beefs with everyone not cool enough to be indoctrinated into the holy temple of design. Despite the fact that these terms are used interchangeably in colloquial, modern English, a typeface and a font are technically different things: a typeface is a family of fonts.
Looking at the example above from Google Fonts, Roboto is the name of the typeface, while Roboto Bold is a font (it’s one implementation of the Roboto font family).
So, there ya go. Now you can enjoy the peaceful bliss that comes from avoiding the rage of design Twitter. You’re welcome 😜.
What’s the difference between a typeface and a font? - SuperHi
Honoring the intent of the original creator
Architectural Digest released a tour of The Garcia House in LA this week. It’s a super drool-worthy home that borders on being a work of art while remaining very livable. And to think, it could’ve been yours for a meager 16 million dollars recently… 💸
While the house is obviously awesome, the reason I wanted to share the video is that I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the owner who restored it. He seems to love the history of the place and did a wonderful job staying true to the original creator’s intent while modernizing it.
As a person who spends a lot of time thinking about what’s next, it feels good to see someone be able to look back at something brilliant and appreciate how awesome it was and still is. To me, there’s something noble about recognizing a past creator’s vision, honoring it, and expanding on it. Go your own way, but pay your respects where they’re due. Call it the creator code of honor. 🎖️🏅
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Ever since noticing the arrow in the FedEx logo, I can't unsee it... And I've also told at least 20 people about it 🤣