Checklist: How To See The Designs Around You (Beta)


To help readers apply the ideas from the book into their own world, the book includes a checklist for everyone. Anyone can use it to think about any designed thing: a product, a place or a service. The goal is to help people think more critically about design, and to facilitate better design discussions.

Beta testers wanted: Try out the checklist! Pick an object, write up your answers and report back (leave a comment or email). How can the checklist be made more useful or interesting for readers? (strongly prefer feedback from after you’ve used it – thanks 🙂

Constraints: the goal is for this to fit on a single page, so it’s easy to copy and use.

How to use this checklist: Pick any product, place or service that’s nearby, so you can look at it and use it. Maybe a street intersection, a kitchen appliance or a new mobile app. Take a minute to study how it looks and works. Then answer the following questions.

  • When it was made, what were they trying to improve?
  • Who were they trying to improve it for?
  • How successful were they?
  • Is it clear what it does? Is easy to learn? Does it work reliably?
  • What hidden constraints could explain its weaknesses?
  • Who paid for it? Who profits from it?
  • Who were the powerful people who influenced the design?
  • Did people come first, or a technology, or an organization?
  • What message is it’s style sending to you?
  • Who is included or excluded from participating?
  • What systems is this design a part of? Are those systems working well?
  • Where in another place, or in the natural world, is there a better design?
  • Does this design create flow or conflict?
  • What new problems does this design create if it’s successful?
  • What are you going to do about all of this? (If in doubt, start a conversation.)

Checklist Feedback:

  • Make a google/online doc, and include a photo of what you studied. Plus your answers.
  • Add a link so I can check it out.
  • Did each question make sense? How could they be made clearer?
  • What important question was missing?
  • Was this fun or interesting? How could it be more engaging?

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