Department of Design

Curated by Timoni West.

Primarily focused on product design, technology, cognitive psychology, and the brain. Also—pretty pictures, sometimes moving.


September 29th, 2014

As of Nov 9 I’ll be working remotely in Israel, Turkey, Greece, and then up to Berlin around Christmas (hi Linds!).

If you know folks in any of those countries that I should meet, or especially cool work spots in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Athens & Istanbul, plz let me know.


September 26th, 2014
Here’s how venture capital works: you go to an investor, before you’ve even built the thing you’re building and you tell them how you’re going to exit. It’s called an exit plan or exit strategy. You tell them, for example: “Hey, we’re going to get 100 million people using our new platform in two years time, how much will you give me for 100 million people?” And they go “Umm, we’ll give you this much for 100 million people because we’re pretty sure we can get that amount back several times over when we sell those 100 million people in an exit either to another company or in an IPO.”

When you take venture capital, it is not a matter of if you’re going to sell your users, you already have. It’s called an exit plan. And no investor will give you venture capital without one. In the myopic and upside-down world of venture capital, exits precede the building of the actual thing itself. It would be a comedy if the repercussions of this toxic system were not so tragic.

Let me put it bluntly: if a company has taken venture capital, you have already been sold. It’s not a matter of if, it’s simply a matter of when. (Unless the company goes under before it can exit, that is.) A venture-capital funded startup is a temporary company that has to convince enough people into using their platform so that they can make good on the exit they promised their investors at the very beginning. It is the opposite of a long-term, sustainable business.

 Ello, goodbye. by Aral Balkan .

I signed up for Ello and I dig it, so I’m not quoting this to knock Ello. But Balkan isn’t wrong, and that’s sad. I have devoted my life to making products on a platform so ephemeral people still don’t want to pay for things on it.

A Love Affair with Technology, via timhwang. Nice counterpoint to Why We Sit Back and Let Apps Do Our Chores in the New York Times.

Cosmin Capitanu’s concepts for Xonom.

September 24th, 2014

Ben Johnson’s The Jack Dusty Experiment. I love, love everything about this.

September 23rd, 2014
But when Thiel is arguing for more women founders he isn’t just deflecting responsibility from himself and his fellow investors. He is also doing something else that I want to unpack: he is re-inscribing a form of hierarchical thinking that is part of the reason tech is such a mess regarding diversity. That is, when Thiel points to “more women founders” as a solution, he is asking women to become founders in order to possess a status that would allow Thiel to acknowledge women in tech at all.

Kate Losse, The Myth of Magical Futures.

Losse nails it. Having women in power in business in 2014 means that woman is still working within a hierarchy originally created, and maintained to this day, by men.

I think it’s unfortunate that when we talk about changing gender roles at work, we don’t talk about men much. But—forgive my generalizations for a minute—men are more hierarchical than women, more likely to be competitive, more used to power and dominance ruling social interactions. This is not the norm for everyone, this is the norm for men, and that is why it is the norm at work.

I’ve very excited about to see, later in life, is how company structures change as more women are granted power. Will CEOs still exist? Boards of directors?

I have a hunch that, in any case, bad behavior will be less tolerated, and toxic work situations less common, as the gender dynamic changes. Right now, powerful people are allowed to walk into meetings, scream and harange, and have no repercussions. They can be generally patronizing, insulting, or dismissive, and keep their jobs. In the current business world, there is often no correlation made between being good at one’s job and being an emotionally healthy person.

I’ve been lucky at my jobs, but I’ve certainly heard horror stories about terrible bosses of both genders. But the fact is that bad male bosses are generally tolerated, and sometimes idealized, or even deified. Imagine Sharon Stone yelling “Coffee is for closers.” Imagine Gordan Gekko, played by Glenn Close. Milla Jovovich as Chris Varick.

Imagine if Steve Jobs was a woman. Spoiler: he would have been described as ‘shrill,’ and he would not be CEO.

September 18th, 2014

Danish movie poster for Ladyhawke, 1985.

September 17th, 2014

French movie poster for Ladyhawke. Who is the man on that horse?

Subway poster variant on the Ladyhawke American release poster, with a hilariously upbeat tagline.

Notice the green outline is even greener, and Broderick is even more cheery.

Ladyhawke original theatrical release poster, American. 1985, Warner Bros./ 20th Century Fox. Check out that green outline around Broderick. Why?

A Visual Guide to Packing a Backpack, by Tortuga bags. I’m considering getting one for my trip. Does anybody have feedback about them?

September 14th, 2014
September 12th, 2014

Embedded in the work harder, earn more ethos is an unspoken, unhealthy and inaccurate implication: suffering (working “hard”) is equivalent to value creation.

The problem here is not-so-much in that it forces people to work more than they need to, although that is unhealthy and damaging in itself. The real crime here is that this belief obscures what is truly important in earning more: creating tangible value in the world and having a bigger impact.