Mindful Design

PROJECT

Write a heckin’ book
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MY ROLE

Author, Example Interface Design, Web Design & Development

Collaborators

Apress - Publisher & Editing Team
Vic Bell - Cover Illustration
Zach Inglis - Technical Reviewer

When deciding what projects to feature and/or case study on this chubby pink site of mine, I was in two minds about including Mindful Design. Firstly, I’m not sure I’ll ever write another book, so it’s not like I’m fishing for book projects; secondly, it kinda just looks like yet another way to show everyone I wrote a book.

Anyway, guess who wrote a book?

Aside from visibility though, I spent almost an entire year on this thing, and I think/hope I can offer some interesting, perhaps even valuable, insights into the whole book-writing-publisher-schmoozing-3-star-amazon-reviews-that-feel-like-a-slight-on-me-and-my-ancestors process.

How it started

Mindful Design started off as a hastily-written introduction to a book that was going to be called Responsible Design, which I had grand plans of self-publishing. That intro draft stayed in a Google Doc for literally years, until I realised that without external commitments it would remain unpublished and dripping in regret.

Fast-forward a little, and I was approached by Louise from Apress about potentially writing a book. I don’t think she was prepared for my ‘fuck yes here’s a literal introduction pls let this happen’ but short-story short: the idea was pitched, someone at Apress said yes, deals were agreed, and I started researching.

Working with the team at Apress, for a first time author with absolutely no idea how this process should work, was lush, and in no time, I had a draft outline, a potential list of chapters, and the all-clear to start writing.

The writing process

I’d always found writing therapeutic. When my head gets muddled, free-writing, prompted journalling, and tweeting obscenities into the ether are my go-to de-muddlers. Writing 10,000 words a month changes that very quickly.

I knew that the book was going to be split into two functional parts. First – a deep dive into various mental processes; like attention, learning, memory, and reward. Second – a practical means of incorporating this knowledge into a design process.

I decided to approach each chapter like it was a design project in microcosm. Which meant setting goals and themes, research and documentation, blocking-out rough points, finer details, then handsome pictures.

Fortunately, for most chapters, I already had a broad range of research and knowledge; and the major points and flow came kind of naturally. Others were a little more opaque when I started, but once I broke down those barriers with research and reflection, they ended up being some of my favourite chapters.

For the latter half of the book, I was essentially documenting my early-stage design process (which led directly to Mindful Design Sprints, which you should totally hire me to do) so things got a little more chill.

Writing that all out now, it all seems so matter-of-fact, but like any creative endeavour, this really was a meandering mess. A hurricane of ideas, contradicting research, opaque whitepapers, and draft-upon-draft of discarded drivel.

I’ll be honest, I had visions of me Hemingway-ing it up to fuck; sat at an isolated writing desk, words flowing like hot Vimto on a winter’s eve. In reality, I wrote a solid 62% of this 120,000-word book by hand, in an A6 notebook, in the bath. The only things flowing freely were my tears and my heating bill.

All that aside, something that constantly struck me with every new chapter, every elucidated idea, was the actual massive cliche of the journey being the destination. Every bit of research taught me more about the beauty of the human mind; every argument helped me process and elucidate my association with my work. This process of research, idea, refinement, reflection is core to all creative endeavours, and rarely had I got to engage with a body of work so cyclically in this manner.

The emotional rollercoaster

I’m extremely fortunate and privileged in that I’ve never experienced impostor syndrome as a designer. I’m generally confident in my abilities, process, and mindset; and that’s led to a degree of contentedness in my career for which I’m very grateful. As an author, however, fucking hell. Nah.

Every single chapter I wrote had a moment where I was convinced I should just lash the whole book in the bin, renege on my deal, book a big long holiday, and cry in the bath. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t doing good ideas justice. Another thing I am very grateful for is having a wonderful support network full of understanding and compassionate friends and family members, who picked me up after every ‘Scott’s having a book moment’ breakdown.

Anyway; the joy of finally figuring out what to write soon ebbed into the despair of having to write it to a deadline, which transformed into the existential dread of competence-questioning, finally arriving at sheer unbridled relief when a chapter deadline was hit. Repeat 9 more times.

Write your way out

Fundamentally, Mindful Design will register with and impress upon a relatively small number of people. It’ll never be a best-seller (although it was #1 on Am*z*n for some obscure category at some point) and is perhaps too niche to become an industry-standard book. It doesn’t promise the panacea of Hooked (I mean, it’s the literal opposite of Hooked), the easy-to-follow steps of Sprint, or the focus and perfection of Just Enough Research. I’m okay with that, because it was never intended as such.

Perhaps, too, it’s a selfish endeavour, or a product of privilege; of wanting to write it and having the platform to convince a publisher to let me do so. I’m still not sure myself.

What I am sure about is that – through writing this book, through getting it published, through seeing it in other people’s hands – this entire process has reaffirmed why I do what I do. I want to offer a respite from compulsive, habit-forming, capitalistic psychology discourse in tech; whether that’s through my work, or through this chunky lil green boi.

Writing a book is hard. Even when you’re passionate to a fault about its content. It’s also deeply rewarding in a way I’m still struggling to put into words. Probs cause I used them all up on this fucker.

Wanna chat?

Want me to design some stuff? Interested in booking me to speak or lecture? Wanna tell me how much you love my face? Say hi.

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