Welcome to the Design Axioms journal

By Juhan Sonin on 16 August 2012

After 4 years in the making, the first card set has been published as a physical deck (available via Amazon) and digital art (as seen on this site). All of the content from illustrations to words to concepts are open source, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Share, hack, remix, and make these ideas better.

The journal will reveal podcasts on individual axioms, how each card was born from sketches and matured into final art, deeper rants and open discussions on each concept, and new content and art for upcoming cards.

Where did the axioms come from?

The axioms were born from:

  1. my experience as a software designer,
  2. living each axiom in my daily, weekly, yearly evolution as a craftsman,
  3. teaching design to colleagues, customers, and students, and
  4. a need to develop a repeatable process and understandable philosophy to spread within the organizations that nurtured my growth and well-being.

There is an impedance mismatch with the design community (and with company cultures) on the skills and practices required for designing software interfaces.

Design Axioms is the bromide for design disorientation. Rather than concentrate on a single discipline within interface design (such as interaction or usability), Design Axioms takes a system approach describing the key concepts of the entire act of creating an interface from prototyping to using real data to visual design and layout to interaction patterns.

What problems does Design Axioms solve?

There are hundreds of design books on usability, HCI principles, design research, user interface patterns, and graphic design. However, there is a dearth of concise interface design advice for the craftsman, for the lone engineer trying to be the interface designer, and for IT teams struggling to develop elegant services.

Design Axioms is the analog for The Elements of Style by Strunk and White on user interface that encompasses layout, interaction, visual design, and prototyping tenets.

The designer reading these tenets should think, “This is the essence of what I should do” and they will refer to the axioms as a reference and constant reminder of good interface design practices.

What are you going to get out of Design Axioms?

  1. Don’t tell me the answer, tell me how to think about the problem.
  2. It’s a multi-disciplinary attack on interface design. Interface designers need a spectrum of skills – not just wireframing or usability analysis – to craft elegant designs. Fluency in graphic design, human-computer interaction, human factors, type setting, and many other skills are required.
  3. It’s small. It will fit in your pocket. It’s not a 500 page tome that tells me how to use checkboxes versus pull-down menus. Concept-based mantras based more on visual stories rather than pages of description allow people to quickly grok the notion and implement. Reading about visual design is counter intuitive; you need to see it… and consume and retain the ideas. 500 page text-filled bibles miss the mark. And who reads anymore?
  4. It makes us feel good to design compelling experiences. As product designers, we make design choices because it’s good for users and us (the designers). The designer behind the MacBook Pro’s auto-hiding magnetic lid hook most likely felt great about the final product: it’s a spectacularly elegant design. This is why we sweat over pixels and typography: we want to love and be proud of our work.

A special thank you

Without Dirk Knemeyer, my fabulous co-author and business partner, and Sarah Kaiser, the fantastic illustrator, the Design Axioms would still be stuck in my wetware. Now, they are a living and breathing thing. Thank you both very much.

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