Around the time that I started working on Humans vs. Zombies, I made a decision to be transparent with my personal information on the internet (i.e. I post my email, Max@Temkin.com, all over the place). Ever since then, I’ve gotten a huge volume of email… at least a few hundred messages a day. People ask me about all kinds of things, but one of the most common requests I get is just to give them advice. The most common questions I get are “how do I make a board game?” or “how do I make a Kickstarter project?” and I’ve started a few projects to give answers to people who ask those kinds of questions (like Tabletop Deathmatch and Kickstarter Office Hours).
One of the questions I’m never able to give a good answer to is “how do I learn about design?”
There’s a lot of reasons that “how do I learn about design?” is a difficult question; design is this incredibly complicated set of skills ranging typography to applied psychology, and I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing; I’ve never taken a design class in my life.
I think people usually expect me to say that they should learn Photoshop or something (in fact, people often phrase this question as, “how do I get good at Photoshop so I can design a great website?” I would compare this to asking how to learn Microsoft Word to become a great writer).
This is all by way of brining up the thing I want to tell you about, which is this short book about design called Cadence & Slang. When people send me the design question, I always, always link them to this book.
From the author:
Cadence & Slang is a very small book about interaction design. It contains a set of evergreen principles that pertain to any kind of work in technology, from websites to iOS apps to native software. There are many great texts about user experience, but people have repeatedly returned to this one for its clarity and its succinct statement of purpose.
This is a bit of a soft sell - for me, Cadence & Slang is the textbook on design and design principles; more than anything else, this book taught me best practices for design, but also how to think about design and solve problems.
It’s full of technical information like what kinds of buttons to use in what situations, but it’s also a beautiful little meditation on empathy and language and the nature of information.
Cadence & Slang has been out of print for years, and the book’s author Nick Disabato has posted a Kickstarter campaign to print an updated second edition. The physical book is $50 (worth every penny, it is a beautiful design object that will last a lifetime) and trust me when I tell you that when these things are gone they will be gone; I’ve been begging Nick for a copy for years and I still don’t have one.
There’s only a short window to get this book and I couldn’t recommend it more strongly. Once you read it I think you’ll start doing what I do and sending it to everyone who asks you how to learn about design.