Design for
Real Humans

A book designed to infuse your design process with the understanding and appreciation the human mind deserves, Mindful Design presents a responsible deep dive into the areas of cognitive psychology and neuroscience that can most improve design. If you want to start making products that integrate into lifestyles instead of interrupting them, Mindful Design is for you.

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Chapter 1

Attention & Distraction

Chapter 1 is all about how our brain regulates our attention, the cost of distractions, and some of the amazing (and plenty of the not-so-amazing) ways we simplify the world around us. We'll examine tech's rather damaging fetishisation of attention, and how we can use an understanding of our attentional systems to work alongside human focus, rather than striving to constantly interrupt it.

Chapter 2

Vision, Perception & Aesthetics

Chapter 2 focuses on how we perceive the world, with particular focus on our visual perception. This chapter delves into the ways in which our brains parse discrete stimuli into coherent objects and concepts. We'll look at how adept the brain is at grouping and codifying visual information, and how we can use this knowledge when laying out, styling and animating our interfaces.

Chapter 3

Learning & Memory

Chapter 3 revolves around the myriad ways we learn and practice things, from memorising information to repeating and practicing complex motor skills. We'll explore the difference between educational interfaces and learnable interfaces and examine learning as a process of bridging gaps in mental models. We’ll also look at how we can implement this when teaching people about the concepts and features underpinning our systems.

Chapter 4

Harmony & Dissonance

Chapter 4 explores the world of musical harmony and dissonance and offers parallels to interaction design. We'll attempt to unravel the mysterious allure of dissonance, explore the joy that can be found in surprise and schematic violation. We'll take the examples set by music, video games and movies—as compelling forms of progressive media—and explore the impact of using time and progression as compositional tools when designing interactions.

Chapter 5

Reward & Motivation

Chapter 5 examines what I believe to be tech's most controversial application of brain science—our response to reward and motivation. We'll look at how the reductionist, behaviourist concepts behind persuasive design do a disservice to almost everyone, and delve into some often-overlooked theories behind intrinsic motivation that offer us respite from the incessant chasing of addictive products. We'll explore how treating humans like humans is—you know—A Good Thing.


Implementation & Ethics

In the second half of the book, we'll look at how we can responsively and ethically apply this knowledge across our design processes.

Research & Planning

We'll look into how we can use common, repeatable ethnographic research techniques to make sure we give our process the best possible start.

Scribbling & Sketching

We'll explore how we can ensure that our early stage design briefs and idea explorations such as thumbnails and wireframes can be made more mindful and compassionate.

Testing & Iterating

We'll take a look at how we can ensure that the testing we conduct—and the changes we make on the back of it—are representative and accommodating of the diverse people and attitudes that occupy our problem space.

Diagrams & Documentation

We'll examine how documenting our systems and ideas through things like state diagrams, mental models and empathy maps can ensure that our important decisions are communicated effectively.

Interaction Anatomy

We'll unravel the moments and transitions that make up interactions—the building blocks of our interface work—and explore how we can apply our learnings from the previous chapters to our interactions.

Ethical Considerations

We'll question how we can fight the onrushing tide of late-stage tech capitalism and start bringing design towards a position where it democratises—where it refuses to oppress.