Fly on the Wall: “The magic is that everything has a center of gravity. You just need to find it.” Matt 06 Jul 2006

22 comments Latest by JD

Some of the activity this week at our internal 37signals Campfire chat room:

Michael Bierut got an “amen” for being open about one of the design world’s dirty secrets:

It’s a dirty secret that much of what we admire in the design world is a byproduct not of “strategy” but of common sense, taste and luck. Some clients are too unnerved by ambiguity to accept this, and create garganuan superstructures of bullshit to provide a sense of security….Not only do designers enthusiastically collude in this process, but many have found ways to bill for it.

bathysphere Jason loves this room inside a room he dubbed “The Alone Time room.” Marcel quickly decided to order Jason a bathysphere for his birthday.

David found this alternative to Snapz Pro for intel macs but Jamis said it’s kind of flakey. A call went out to the wild: “COME ON Ambrosia! Update Snapz! or COME ON APPLE! Make one!” Suspicions abound that Apple uses a homebrewed one for its own stuff. Hmm.

Ryan noticed something interesting while reading through Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence. “What struck me is how you almost never have to hold something in your head while turning the page…he usually finishes his thought within the two pages you can see…and when you flip, it’s something new…that’s an excellent self-imposed constraint…’whatever i need to say, i’ll do it here.’” Jason replied, “Yes, I love that. I noticed that more on this book than others. The image and text is in one spread so when you turn you are turning your attention to a new idea. If you have too much to say than the space allowed then you are probably saying too much…it definitely makes it easier to design the book too…you can design each spread as if it was a standalone poster.”

Sweating the details sometimes means a lengthy debate over a single word choice. It took a 1305 word discussion to decide which one of these was the best choice for a feature in Sunrise: ping, alert, reminder, or task.

Jason is blown away by stone balancing. “The magic is that everything has a center of gravity. You just need to find it,” he says. Jamis is wowed by watermelon carving. Marcel said the stone balancing stuff is zened out but he thinks watermelon carving is the pits. Ok, he didn’t really say that second part.

Jamis sent an email to Amazon with a question about the ship date of something he recently ordered. They replied with a 5 paragraph response and upgraded the shipping to 2nd Day Domestic at no extra charge. “Totally above-and-beyond, impressive,” he said. “But I have to wonder if they actually read my email :)”

Jamis got a spam that purports to be the IRS and takes you to a site that asks for your SSN, credit card, etc. So he went to to see if there was a way to report it and found this page. To report suspected tax fraud activity, you have to FILL OUT A PAPER FORM and MAIL IT to them. Mail it!? How 1985. Maybe we should get Senator Ted Stevens to explain to the IRS how to use the series of tubes that is the internet.

I changed the room’s topic to “The defining factor is never resources, it’s resourcefulness.” -Tony Robbins

eBay is banning sellers from using Google Checkout and David thinks that’s stupid: “Only going to give GMoney a ton of legitimacy and interest.”

Jason is inspired by watch design but hardly wears ‘em anymore. “I don’t need to know what time it is most of the time…but I just love the engineering of watches and how you can make a million designs with roughly the same constraints.” Ryan agreed, “Yeah, they’re fun and they’re all about subtlety cuz the scale is so small.”

A round of huzzahs for the nice video tour (toward the bottom of the page) for Goggle Checkout. Also, Jason thinks putting the the cart icon in Adwords is “very smart.”

Ryan noted this interesting Matisse quote: “I do not paint things, I paint only the differences between things.”

22 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Chris Mear 06 Jul 06

I still can’t believe that the rock balancing thing is for real. It looks as unlikely as balancing a pencil on its point. Yeah, it has a center of gravity, but the arrangement is so unstable that surely the slightest shift of air will knock the whole thing down? Is there some trick I’m missing?

JF 06 Jul 06

It’s totally real. It’s amazing to see in person. You can do it yourself too — probably not as well as this guy does it, but you’d be surprised at what you can balance if you focus.

Brian 06 Jul 06

Where is that Michael Bierut quote from? Is it from Design Observer?

Mark 06 Jul 06

With the balancing rocks and the closed in cubicle, toxic meetings, and “less”, am I the only one sensing that Jason perhaps is expressing some deep inner desire for tranquility?

Maybe a vacation is in order?

j/k — sorta.

Rabbit 06 Jul 06

@Mark - My guess is that “deep inner desire for tranquility” goes beyond what a vacation can provide.

Agile/lean/less techniques aren’t exclusive to work; they’re modes of living.

Adam 06 Jul 06

There’s a guy guy here in Fremont (neighborhood in Seattle) who stacks rocks like that and mutters about objectivity to people. Kind of entertaining.

Saddest thing to see though are drunks knocking them down :(

Fel 06 Jul 06

�The magic is that everything has a center of gravity. You just need to find it,� [Jason] says.

As a strategic consultant and writer for startups and other small businesses, I can’t tell you how appropriately and richly those words strike me as they apply to my own consulting and writing role.

And Jason went on to divulge a key secret to finding that center:

“… you�d be surprised at what you can balance if you focus.”

Damn, I’m in the midst of overhauling my website, I just may have to use that in there somewhere.


ML 06 Jul 06

Thanks for posting the link to the interview Peter. I meant to ask Ryan, who mentioned the quote originally, where it came from and forgot to do so before posting.

Ken 06 Jul 06

Did Jason see today’s Woot?? Wow!!

Ken 06 Jul 06

Did Jason see today’s Woot?? Wow!!

ML 07 Jul 06

Daliel, I changed the photo link so that it also goes to your site (the link that reads “stone balancing” went there already) and deleted it from Flickr. Fyi: The reason we download and repost photos is to avoid hotlinking.

Torley Linden 07 Jul 06

Watermelon carving is definitely beautiful. I love watermelons and I love the shapes that can be made out of them. I wish I could see more square watermelons carved. That might be like a gold sculpture, as they’re expen$ive!

Ryan 07 Jul 06


That rock balancing is amazing. I used to do that with my pencils in high school. :)

Do you have a source for that Matisse quote?

Ryan 07 Jul 06

Wow. Daliel should get the troll of the year award.

In fairness to Daliel 07 Jul 06

… it really is wrong to go posting someone else’s image on Flickr without permission.

ML 07 Jul 06

The rock balancing photo is gone. And Daliel’s comments have been deleted per his request.

Mike 07 Jul 06

Wow, that Ted Stevens thing is really scary, I can’t believe people this stupid are making laws that impact our lives. It is even stranger when you listen to the audio version at “When you take uh, uh, uh really, uh, and.” What the?!?

Tom 07 Jul 06

The title of the “room inside a room” page calls it “My Room”

Brian 07 Jul 06

Thank you for the link, Peter. Great interview.

JD 24 Jul 06

Isn’t the thing about Tufte and limiting himself to expressing one thought per two-page spread a little bit like presenters using PowerPoint and jamming each thought onto a slide?