San Francisco, California

Escape Bias

The biggest threat to great design is bias.

For example: at Sentry I’m on the Workflow team. We work on the error monitoring side of things, such as Alerts and Issues. These features notify you when a user experiences a problem with your app—we can send you a notification to say “hey! your app exploded at this point in time for this particular user and this is the problem.”

It’s magic.

The problem here is that because I’m on the Workflow team I see every problem as one that can be solved with what I know and the features that I work on. These feelings are natural because our perspective is skewed: we see ourselves as the protagonist at the center of the galaxy. Try to imagine yourself as an NPC, try to un-think what you currently know about the world and it’ll require some serious four dimensional chess in your brain.

Simply put: if you’re on Team Hammer then you’ll see every problem as one that can only be solved with a hammer.

This bias in the environment leads to bias in design. It encourages me to solve every problem with what I already know, instead of asking more questions, diving deeper to solve the problem at hand. It’s this reason why abbreviations are so prevalent because folks find it so very hard to empathize with people who don’t know what they know. Just learn what I learn, jeez. Shut up.

This bias applies to skills, too. I often see every problem as one that can be solved with typography alone and most days I let this bias get the best of me. But as a designer you constantly have to push away from this bias if you want to make anything half decent. You have to unlearn your environment and the way you see things constantly.

I guess my point here is that we all have bias, we’re all trapped within our little snow globes but there are some fleeting moments where you can push back against the glass—to un-think, un-learn, un-know—and that’s the place where great design can be done.

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