Death by Screens: the newsletter

Death by Screens Tip: from babysafe to masochist, 3 tools to level-up your writing

Published 12 months 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 usually come with transcription tools nowadays that are just fine for our purposes, but it’s worth me mentioning one tool:

Not only does it do an excellent job at transcription, but it gets the workflow right as well. Highly recommended - my first choice if I want to improvise a talk and capture it.

Story before Screens: IA Presenter (medium)

If you’re familiar with minimalist writing tools, you might know IA Writer. The same team has created IA Presenter, which takes a very different approach to presenting. Instead of adding your talk to your slides afterwards, you write your presentation, and it builds the slides for you!

This innovative approach is literally “story before screens” (the working title of Death by Screens). How tools shape our workflow is not neutral. Keynote and Powerpoint encourage us to start with slides; this is the opposite of that.

Strictly for masochists: The Most Dangerous Writing App (hard)

Anyone who has followed my varied career closely might know that one year I wrote one blog post and published it without fail, every single workday. As part of that process, I used one of the scariest pieces of software I’ve ever encountered, The Most Dangerous Writing App. To use it, you set a timer, and start typing. If you don’t keep typing, the words start to fade. Leave it too long and it will delete everything you’ve written!

This sounds like an exercise in madness… except it works. The reason most people find writing a challenge is that they try to write and edit at the same time. You get caught up in rewording and rethinking, which is something you should only do afterwards. TMDWA forces you out of this mode.

Bonus item

While we're on the subject of deliberately inducing anxiety, Kyle Bean, the creator of the cover art for Death by Screens has a new photo series called In Anxious Anticipation.

OK, that’s it this week. Do let me know if these tools help at all!

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!

Read more from Death by Screens: the newsletter
A man tightropes between towers of money and cake.

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...

4 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...

5 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...

9 months ago • 17 min read
Share this post