Death by Screens: the newsletter

by Ben Sauer

My book "Death by Screens: how to present high-stakes digital design work and live to tell the tale" - is here to help designers tell better stories about their work. Get three winning presentation tips from the book by signing up below!

A man tightropes between towers of money and cake.
Featured Post

The persuasive power of a secret ambition

The secret ambitions of Phillipe Petit...? The Amazon Effect Ever heard of ‘The Amazon Effect’ in usability testing? Picture this: you’re testing an e-commerce website for a client. But right when the participants you’re observing are about to buy something, they open Amazon in a new tab. When asked why, they say: “well I always check prices against Amazon before buying.” I’m not here to tell you about The Amazon Effect, but how one might use the story of The Amazon Effect. What if...

6 months ago • 2 min read
Goldilocks stares at the planets

Big in Japan In Japan, the way people read is fundamentally different to how we read in the west, and it's not just the vertical orientation of the lines. You can see sense how reading is different in the design of newspapers. INFORMATION OVERLOAD! (for westerners) The writing systems used in East Asia have turned people into expert information scanners; they can digest very dense information very quickly. If you give a presentation in Japan, it's quite common (and expected) to put everything...

7 months ago • 1 min read
Jane Austin

Jane Austin is one of the most inspiring product design people I've ever met. She's a sharp product thinker and builds happy, productive design teams (great interview about her journey here). Jane and I helped to build a hundred strong design team together. She asked me recently why I wrote my new book, Death by Screens: how to present high stakes digital design work and live to tell the tale. Here's an edited version of that conversation. The idea for the book What was the trigger for...

11 months ago • 17 min read
Goldilocks stares at the planets

Education, fables, game design, astrophysics, writing, story structure: they’re all connected by a useful principle you can use to improve how you communicate. Deliberate failure Our schooling has really internalised the idea that the correct answer is the only one that matters. As I write, my twelve-year-old son is being tested again on some topic he told me that he already knows. As teachers in the UK like to say - you can’t fatten a pig by measuring it. As an adult, I learned that failure...

11 months ago • 1 min read
chatgpt koan on design feedback

Today's tip is about how you go about helping to facilitate good feedback from stakeholders. Let's go! We teach children something that we often don't stick to in our adult lives: think before you speak. I'm as guilty of not following this rule as anyone. I'm from an outspoken and (sometimes brutally) direct Dutch / Welsh family, and the son of a radio presenter. I didn't have any trouble offering my opinion until I got a bit older and considered the true impact of my words. We can't make...

12 months ago • 3 min read
Bill Reid's Raven sculpture

In your long, creative, and prosperous design career, you'll end up explaining particular topics to your colleagues over and over again. What we'll cover: finding the right story to tell about a topic so that you grab their attention at the start. In Pacific Northwestern Canada, there's an archipelago of islands called Haida Gwaii. The indigenous people there tell of their ability to speak the language of ravens, recently lost to the effects of colonialism. Ravens are a central part of the...

12 months ago • 4 min read
Will Self's writing room

There's no one perfect way to create a presentation, or indeed, any kind of content-based work. But there are approaches we can borrow from other disciplines. In the world of fiction writing, there's the idea of 'planners' or 'pantsers' (as in, flying by the seat of your pants). Planners meticulously plan the structure of their work in an outline before they start writing (Will Self is one example); pantsers are those who just go for it and write (George RR Martin). Both approaches have their...

12 months ago • 2 min read
Walter White brainstorms the structure on sticky notes

Hey folks. Yesterday I got to the final proof of the book. So close! In preparation I've improved how these articles appear on the web, do take a look and share (if there's anything you've enjoyed reading, that is!).Anyway, this week... useful lessons from Breaking Bad, Southpark, and what not to do, courtesy of Game of Thrones. Read on the web The showrunner of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, knew that there's a really easy story-telling trap you can fall into. He would begin with a very...

about 1 year ago • 2 min read

A guilty gap in-between emails... OK, I’ve been really lax writing to you over the past few weeks, with good reason. The process of finalising the book to go to print was much more work than anticipated, if book_interior_final_final_final_v1.345.pdf is anything to go by! Anyway, I think it’s done. The final proof copy is winging its way over; more on the book launch soon. No really. Underscore_really_v5_really. Read this on the web Selling without sales I’ve never been one for sales. I’ve sat...

about 1 year ago • 2 min read

OK folks, it’s a short one this week; I’m busy working with a new startup. Some good news about the book - the design of the print edition layout is 99.99% done! Let’s talk about some tools I’ve found useful, starting with the gentle option. Read and share this on the web Transcribe it: (easy) In Death by Screens I cover the importance of writing out your rationale. But it’s not an easy thing to get beyond a blank page, so improvise your first draft and transcribe it. Our devices...

about 1 year ago • 2 min read
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