Design Principles



Observe and listen. Strive to understand. Create structure that gently directs. Be responsive to feedback. Adapt to changing contexts. How can concepts be reinforced nonverbally? What needs are still unexpressed, unarticulated, or even unrealized?


Compose for an intense world. Teach synesthesia as a public service. Simplify whenever possible. Take wayfinding seriously. Assume boundaries between all categories are permeable, or possibly illusions. Remember that we know things long before we know that we know them. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


Well, that’s a mouthful. Neuro-what?

We humans comprise a vast assortment of brains, minds, and bodies. Design can acknowledge these variations, adapt as needed, and communicate with crosscognitive fluency. This is a natural extension of design’s increasingly important role in society*, as science develops a more sophisticated understanding of the biological realities of neurodiversity.

Truly inclusive communication design drinks deeply from a well of different styles and “cultures” of perception and cognition.


The metaphor is the medium

We absorb and integrate new ideas and experiences better when we can relate to them somehow. Pave the paths to new material, and be ready with extra support for concepts that might get lost in translation.

Clear the path

Relentlessly reduce friction in structures and processes. Simplify, simplify. Take the time to imagine the how the related flow state will feel for the end user. People don’t want a drill, and they don’t want a hole… they just want to sit on their new deck and watch the sunset.

Mind the elements of style

Be attentive to small aspects and experiences. Thoughtful details will reinforce, reassure, and delight. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity.* Form and function are partners, not competitors.

Emergent properties will arise

All kinds of self-organizing phenomena only emerge at scale. Thoughtful, intentional design is able to respond to change, rather than simply react. What perceptions or behaviors might emerge If we visualize moving up or down an order of magnitude, what would change?

Design for the edges

Anticipate corner cases. Individuals diverge; groups are diverse. Discovery only happens in the margins. The wisest designs will quietly leave signposts (and maybe a map and compass) for people who want to explore new territory. Innovation can isolate, and it’s not for the faint of heart – we speak of the “bleeding edge” for a reason. It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.

Eventually everything connects

…people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key.* Just because you can’t perceive a relationship in a given situation doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Magic is just stuff that science hasn’t made boring yet.