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
  • Include a photo of what you studied. Plus your answers.
  • Add a link so I can check it out.
  • Feedback:
    • 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?

Sample: here’s a test version I did using my office chair as “the design”

A book on Design Literacy for Everyone


Everything we use, from social media, to our homes, to our highways, was designed by someone. But how did they decide on what was good for the rest of us? What did they get right and where have they let us down? And what can we learn from the way these experts think that can help us in how we make decisions in our own lives?

This book will takes readers on a thrilling journey through their daily lives, exploring how designers of all kinds, from software engineers, to urban planners, have succeeded and failed us. By offering a fresh way to think about everyday life and the impact of technology on how we live, readers will learn to see the world in a new and powerful way. They’ll see better ways to manage projects, make decisions and understand how creative people develop good ideas. They’ll ask better questions of the things they buy, use, and make, and discover how fun it can be to use ideas from great designers to improve their everyday lives.