The Thing About Jetpacks

A book about designing wonderful things

Jon Bell

--

Background

In 2013, I wrote a book of design essays with my friend Lukas Mathis and we sold it as a hardcover book. I thought it’d be fun to share the whole thing on Medium for free. You can also download an epub version here. Enjoy!

Preface

I’d like to talk to you about three things.

First, thing number one. Almost exactly a year ago, I visited Seattle. While there, I met my Internet friend Jon Bell, whom you might know from such things as this book you’re currently holding. It’s funny how you can meet somebody for the first time, but feel like you know at least part of that person very well. We talked about design a lot, and when I left, I knew two things: one, I like this guy. Two, it would be fun working with him on some kind of project.

Here’s thing number two: I’m a horrible procrastinator. One of the techniques I use to cheat myself into doing things is something I call “minimum viable goals.” I tend to set huge goals for myself. Stuff like “tomorrow, I want to clean the house, finish two projects I’m currently working on, and vacuum the car.” When I wake up the next day, all of this work seems so daunting that I can’t bring myself to start it. Instead, I just sit on the balcony and read a book. Which isn’t bad, of course. But it’s not what I intended to do.

So instead of setting these huge, insurmountable goals that are so big that I don’t even know where to start, I stop myself, and instead find a minimum viable goal. Instead of writing five chapters in a book, I’m merely going to rewrite a single sentence that has been bugging me. Instead of cleaning the whole house, I’m merely bringing out the trash. Instead of finishing that website I’ve been working on, I’m merely going to improve the validation error messages on the contact form.

Those are small goals. I can get one of them done easily, and still go read afterwards. So I get one of them done. And then, instead of reading a book, I do another one, because I’m already working on it. And another one. And then I start working on something a bit bigger. And since I’ve already started, I continue doing it for a bit, because I don’t want to leave it unfinished. And before…

--

--

Jon Bell

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.