Webvisions: The Best is the Enemy of the Good - Jared Spool and Reed Spool


The Best is the Enemy of the Good:
Similarities in Perfection Between Magic and Design
Jared Spool @jmspool
Reed Spool
  • demo: magic show by reed spool, manipulation tricks
  • Thurston - World’s Famous Magician
    • first person to do large stage magic
    • would travel with nine rail cars
  • Early magicians and the world of magic have a lot of parallels with experience design
  • Magicians focused on
    • Creative aspects of work
    • But also on business - how to make it into a career
    • Community of Practice - magic conferences
  • Mastery
    • Pattern
      • Beginning
        • starting out in magic is really hard.
        • unless you are a surgeon or a watchmaker, this is probably the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
        • magic is inherently deceptive. the most advanced magicians do the hardest tricks and make it look simple
        • as a beginner, you might see dove magic, and be inspired by it, and want to do it, yet it turns out that working with live animals is one of the hardest things to do it.
        • to learn, it’s hard to know how to do it, what it is supposed to look like.
        • starting learning with coin magic. duller than doves, but easier to learn
      • Mimic
        • say one coin magician, and was so inspired by his mastering, that he set out to mimic everything this guy had done. to be able to do all of his tricks, the way he did them.
      • Innovate
        • a new innovation is the picture frame idea: you want the magic to fit in the picture frame if someone takes a picture. you also want the magic to be near your face, because it adds emotion.
        • when studying classical magic, the thimble routine, for example, you are studying someone else and trying to understand why they did it the way they did it: are they concealing something, or do they need their hand in a position.
    • Word processing
      • Wang 2200
        • first word processor
        • cost $14,000. 
        • in a one week training class, you would learn how to save a file, open a file, and change the ribbon. in the week two advanced class, you learned bold and italics.
        • people would pay for this! it was an advantage over where existed before.
      • Then came WordPerfect. It wasn’t about the technology, it was about the features. They added more and more features. They gave you cardboard cutouts to remember all the commands... you’d put the cutouts on the keyboard or monitor.
      • Then came Microsoft Word. Now it wasn’t about the features, it was about the experience. You didn’t need training or cardboard cutouts.
    • This pattern repeats itself: technology to features to experience. 
      • Similar to magic: beginners, to mimic, to innovate.
    • Beginner Example: Lingscars.com
      • Web site sucks. But she’s just a beginner. She doesn’t know.
    • Mimic Example:
      • AOL website - copied the design of Yahoo, which came out 6 months earlier.
    • Books too...
      • Beginning: ...
      • Mimic: Information Architecture (polar bear book)
      • Innovation: Designing Interactions
    • Are we plotting the path of mastery?
  • Renaissance Man (or Woman)
    • Knowledge of every aspect
      • Did a performance in a middle school.
        • the light setup was pale yellow lights. he asked for a spotlight. he wanted something big that didn’t move.
          • what he got was a tiny spotlight that followed his hands.
          • he asked the lighting guy... what I wanted was this... the guy described, and gave him the words to describe what he wanted. now he can communicate with a lightning guy to the extent of saying what he needs,
        • these things aren’t magic. but they are part of performing. he needs to know a little bit of everything to be able to put on a good show.
      • What do you do when there is an emergency
        • decide whether it can be salvaged or thrown away
        • do that
        • forget about it until the routine is done
        • after the show is over, when you’ve gone home, pick apart what led up to that mistake, what happened during the mistake, and how you recovered. could it have been avoided? or did you just need an out? someway to get to a better place.
      • Yearn to learn
        • be in a constantly learning, constantly observing state. if there is a magic show, i will go, even if i expect it to be crap. 
        • pick up a kid’s book about a topic. some of the best stuff is in these kid’s books
    • Experience Design
      • Many basic skills to experience design. 
        • information architecture, usability practices, visual design, interaction design, copy writing, editing and curating, information design.
      • There are many other skills...
        • social networks, agile methods, analytics, use cases, marketing, technology, roi, business knowledge, domain knowledge
      • And soft skills
        • critiquing, facilitating, sketching, storytelling, presenting
      • And yet the teams that are doing this stuff are getting smaller. The notion that someone could specialized in just one of these skill areas just isn’t workable.
      • T-shaped man vs. Dripping Paint Model
        • T-shaped man says there is breadth, and one area of deep expertise.
        • Dripping paint model says there is breadth, and there is expertise in many areas, of varying depth.
      • magic trick by jared spool: 
  • Practice
    • Practice is not the work. Practice to maintain and improve skills.
    • Practice solidifies things. Perfect practice makes perfect.
    • When you don’t know how things are supposed to look, it’s hard to practice. Practice comes from reading the book over and over again with the props in hand. Or watching the youtube video over and over again.
    • Since some moves, even difficult moves, require talking at the same time, it means the move must be done with the back of your brain. So you have to practice the move over and over again without even thinking about it.
    • Practice never becomes fun. You have to make it fun.
  • In the design realm, we have a lot of skills we need, but we rarely get to practice them. 
    • We do one group exercise in which teams of 5 have 90 minutes to come up with a paper prototype. Then we have users come in and try to use them. Teams compete to see whose users can do the job best. In 90 minutes, they are practicing prototyping, sketching, usability, interaction, etc.
  • The Best is the Enemy of the Good
    • In the engineering world, we hear “we just need to be good enough. we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.” the best is the enemy, because it is a waste of effort.
    • In the magicians viewpoint, good is not satisfactory. It is the enemy... it is not enough to be good enough. You have to be the best at what you do.
    • Perhaps magicians have the benefit of experience. 
  • The Best
    • Are we plotting the path of mastery?
    • Are we building renaissance people?
    • When do we allow ourselves the time, space, or budget to practice?
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