Intense Minimalism 2010: my identity

6 minute read

The first task during this year was trying to define my identity, mostly the professional identity. It’s difficult not only due to the bias that you could have toward yourself, but also because you have to get the right angle of yourself interesting enough to be communicated.

My problem raises from the fact that I don’t have a vertical interest in anything. Well, yes, there are fields that sees me more “present” in some ways, but in the end they’re quite wide.

Having many interests and many things to be passionate about may seem a good thing. Well, it is, from a personal point of view.

Having many interests and many things to be passionate about may seem a good thing. Well, it is, from a personal point of view. But from a communication point of view it’s a big issue. You can say you’re a programmer or a graphic designer in 140 chars, but trying to express all the complexity behind different passions is hard.

It’s also hard for other two reasons:

  • profession: if you’re a vertical kind of person it’s easy to communicate yourself, so when someone “needs” someone like you, it’s easy that you’re the one that will be called.
  • time: pursuing different interests is very enriching, but it takes a huge amount of time.

The simple answer is that I often “choose” between the different skills I have. Sometimes “I’m the interaction designer”. Some other times “I’m the developer”. Some other times “I’m the graphic designer”. And so on.

So, I’ve tried to think about something else. I’ve tried to abstract a bit.


Many people tell me that I’m quite smart. Even if this were true – I leave this as an exercise for the reader ;) – you can’t tell anybody “I’m smart”. That’s a really bad presentation and it usually triggers a response very different to the one you’d like to have. In fact, “smartness” can’t be communicated, but only acknowledged.



The piece by John Siracusa “Hypercritical” in May 2009 was something that really made me thinking.

This acute awareness of deficiencies colors all my memories of childhood. Toys, in particular, were a focal point of dissatisfaction. I didn’t understand why toy manufacturers couldn’t see the countless ways that their products differed from the on-screen characters, machinery, or structures that they were based on.

I felt very similar to Siracusa here. But still there were two problems:

  1. Being “hypercritical” isn’t a flattering explanation, by itself.
  2. It still didn’t felt quite right.



I love doubt, by itself. I think that doubting is the driver of improvement. If you don’t doubt, you’ll never think that “maybe there’s a better way”. If you’re sure, there’s nothing more to add. Slip in some doubt and voilà, you are able to make the right question.
As you can see, the philosphy is interesting… but “doubt” by itself isn’t a skill!



Thesis, antithesis, synthesis:

The thesis is an intellectual proposition.

The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis, a reaction to the proposition.

The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths, and forming a new proposition.

No, not the musical instrument. I once thought about myself that my rational part is a huge synthesizing machine. I throw things inside it and it loves to find relations, abstract things, reduce to single words or sentences, etc.

There are many things that could reinforce this hypothesis:

  1. I’m fast in remembering paths and I draw mental maps of the places where I pass through.
  2. In any situation I’ll try building up an “abstract” structure to hold anything together.
  3. I often use this ability passively, simply acquiring information (lot of) and notions in order one day to elaborate a result.

Yes, I’m sure to be quite good at this.

But still, the term is awkward.


More abstraction, less abstraction

I needed something more concrete than the “synthesizer” line of thought and something more abstract than the simple profession. In the meantime I was also thinking about the logo and I was analyzing the lists as I’ve explained in the post about the making of the logo of Intense Minimalism.

During this time I was also looking at the “lists” on Twitter that has me added. It’s quite interesting: interaction design, usability, social media, graphic design, user experience, speaker, tech, geek, and so on (yes, Twitter Lists are probably more useful to see how the others “categorize” you).

Then the “synthesizer” thing jumps in. I wrote the formula:

It’s nice. Complex, but simple in its form. Disciplines above the line and approach below. Simplicity is the result of some kind of complexity synthesis, so together they’re a pair.

Double checking

I think that the “Hybrid  Designer Formula” above is quite on spot, and it’s confirmed by some other sources.

Simplicity is something all around in the design field, almost in any kind of design.

Progress means simplifying, not complicating
— Bruno Munari

The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
— John Maeda, Law 1

Simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at that moment.
— B.J. Fogg (2009)

Complexity is also there, while its important role isn’t always acknowledged.

Good displays of data help to reveal knowledge relevant to understanding mechanism, process and dynamics, cause and effect.
— Edward Tufte (2005)

The most important part is the relation between the two:

Simple design, intense content.
— Edward Tufte (2005)

Simplicity and complexity need each other.
— John Maeda, Law 5

Any good designer must be intrinsically hybrid.

The three elements above works in the means of the two below the fraction. Their interaction isn’t obvious sometimes, but it’s there. You have a technology, you have people (psychology), you have to make them interact somehow (design).
This is true for architects, industrial designers, visual designers, artists, engineers, while probably any of them will tell you a different story from a different point of view.

The term “Hybrid Designer” emphasizes the cross-relation between different fields. Still, it’s just for communication’s sake: for me, a good designer already does this. And the greatest already do and teach this. Any good designer must be intrinsically hybrid.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.
— Steve Jobs

A designer is a planner with an aesthetic sense.
— Bruno Munari

More emotions is better than less
— John Maeda, Law 7

Good design is aesthetic
The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
— Dieter Rams, Ten principles for good design

We as designers … we cannot do it alone, we need entrepreneurs, working together with good engineers.
— Dieter Rams (2009)

The more you feel that you can control your environment, and that the things you do are actually working, the happier you are
— Joel Spolsky (2000)

If you can design one thing, you can design everything.
— Massimo Vignelli

So, I can now explain something about me and my professional side in 140 characters.

I think that it’s, for now, a good way to tell something about me.

  • What do you think?
  • What about you and your identity? How have you solved this problem?