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Delight is in the Details — Sample PDF http://shawnblanc.

net/thedetails 1
— is in the —
Concerning the making of things

By Shawn Blanc
Sample PDF
Includes the introduction and one chapter
Delight is in the Details — Sample Chapters
Copyright © 2014 by Shawn Blanc

First edition, fall 2013
Second edition, summer of 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9896054-9-6

Self-Published through Blanc Media

Words edited by Jeff Abbott (
Design by Shawn Blanc

Written in Kansas City, Missouri; Leawood, Kansas; Breckenridge, Colorado

All rights reserved. Please enjoy, share what you learn, and pass along bits of inspiration. But
please do not reproduce or redistribute significant parts of this book (written or recorded)
aside from brief quotations for use in reviews, blog posts, tweets, or creative works of your
own. Thank you.

If you enjoy this sample, you can buy the whole book and the
accompanying audio interviews at

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Delight is in the Details — Sample PDF 3
Te details are not the details.
Tey make the design.

— Charles Eames

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What is this book and who is it for?

This is a project that originated on my members-only podcast, Shawn Today, where I
took a week to talk about the idea of delightful design details when it comes to apps,
websites, and other projects.

That original 5-part miniseries received quite a bit of positive feedback from the
listening members. Moreover, I very much enjoyed discussing the topics covered
because I love to find, appreciate, and revel in clever and delightful design details.

For this 14-chapter book you are reading to now, I went through the original podcast
episodes and transcribed everything, compiled that with the original talking points,
added a several more chapters, and then re-wrote and edited everything into what
you have now in your hands.

In addition to being a writer, I’m also a builder of things — I enjoy designing and
project building. I have roots in print design that led me to web design, which led me
to doing freelance work, until one day I found myself leading an in-house design
team of 17 graphic artists, web developers, writers, editors, and project managers.

Now I work from home, writing for a few humble websites that I own and operate. I
write mostly about nerdy tech stuff, marketing, design, creativity, and things like that.

Now, if you are reading this, I trust you also have an affinity for fine design. And when I
say “design” I mean more than just the look. To paraphrase what Steve Jobs famously
said, design isn’t how it looks, design is how it works.

While there is almost always a visual element to the product, design goes beyond just
the look to include the interaction, the tone, purpose, and functionality. When you
design something, you are crafting an experience. And that is exactly what we are
going to explore in this book.

I hope to communicate the importance of crafting delightful details into our products.
Frank Chimero calls this “accommodating design.” In his book, The Shape of Design,
he wrote that “the most important element of delightful design is empathy.”

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Ryan Sims is the head of design for the music streaming service Rdio. In a profile on
Designer Fund, Simms shared about how his dad was a preacher and how that
modeled much of the best lessons he now uses as a designer.

Sims said: “I grew up in a small town in the midwest. Life’s just different there — there’s
a different pace, a different energy. People are kinder. They smile at you on the streets.
My dad was a preacher so I grew up in a very conservative house. I was taught the 10
commandments, and to treat other people as you want to be treated. My dad’s role in
our town was to tend to this community of people who were always bumping into one
another and having disputes, etc. Because of that, problem solving and empathy were
instilled in me very early on. On the product side, being able to think about what users
want and how the product is perceived is a great use of that empathy.”

I believe we build empathy into our products by sweating the details. Something that
requires thinking through and refining many areas and elements of a project. This
means more than considering all the elements of the product and making sure the
colors match — it is also about considering the ways and situations in which real
people will interact with the product.

We aren’t just crafting the way it looks, we’re also crafting the way it works.

My goal is that by the end of this book you will have an increased motivation to strive
for excellence in your own work. Also, I hope you can walk away with the knowledge
and language to help combat sub-par design and lead your clients, co-workers, and/
or your bosses down a path where they too are willing to take the time to sweat the

Welcome. Thanks for joining me. Now, let’s begin.
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Chapter Three
Why Delightful Design Matters
(or: the necessity of sprinkles)
Crafting a product is a team effort. Designers, developers, writers, editors, clients,
bosses, and managers all have a hand in the final product (some more than others, of
course). And so, to craft elements of delight and surprise into something often
requires buy-in and trust from everyone involved.

Crafting elements of delight and surprise takes significant time and energy. Therefore,
the whole team needs at least some level of agreement that it will be worth the extra
effort and time to properly implement an element of the project. Unfortunately, this
sort of team unity is not a common occurrence (especially when we are working for
clients or as part of an in-house design team).

The argument we probably know all too well from our clients or corporate bosses is
that taking the time to sweat the details is a luxury we can’t afford. It can be difficult to
justify delightful, thought-out details when our co-workers would rather finish a
project early, or when our bosses would rather see us add more features.

Often, the time needed to implement delight in our design is deemed unnecessary
because, well, “making it prettier” doesn’t add any functionality. Just like flavor
doesn’t make food any more nourishing, right? And so we are asked to spend our
time squeezing in more stuff without being allowed the time to implement it properly.

However! My argument is the opposite: Not sweating the details is the luxury we can’t
afford to skip. It is better to do one thing right than to do ten things poorly.

I am here to make a case for why delight in design is vital. Intentionally sub-par work
will prove to be the enemy of our long-term success and our own job satisfaction.

The 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is the idea that 20-percent of our time is spent on the first 80-percent
of the project. Then, the remaining 80-percent of our time is spent on the final 20-
percent of the project.

What separates the men from the boys in this regard is having the stamina and vision
to spend that remaining 80-percent of your time iterating and polishing the final 20-
percent of the project.
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It can be easy to get that first version of a product put together. But then you look at it
and it's ugly, it has typos, it’s not intuitive, and who knows what else is misaligned with
it. Then you spend significantly more time polishing and improving what you initially
thought up and built so quickly.

But that latter work is what makes all the difference. It’s what takes our products from
immature to mature. From ugly to beautiful. From merely functional to delightful.
From a neat idea to something valuable and desirable.

To quote Charles Eames: “The details are not the details. They make the design.”

Why is it important to craft delight into our products?
There was a conversation on Branch I took part in earlier this year that was started by
a friend of mine, Phil Coffman. The hypothesis Phil put out there was along the lines of
this: Design details are like sprinkles on a cupcake. They’re not necessary, but they are
delightful. So, should we make things that delight but are not necessary?

When you think of “sprinkles” on your website or app, you can think of little details
that delight. They are things that make it fun and joyful to use your app. Sprinkles are
there to evoke an emotional response, to catch attention, and to establish good will
with your users. But “sprinkles” are not necessary to the core functionality. A cupcake
without frosting or sprinkles is still a cupcake, albeit a plain and uninspiring one.

So, the question is: should those things exist? Should sprinkles on your design exist?


A simple, well-written application that delights is far better than a feature-rich one that
overwhelms. And that's what I mean by the necessity of sprinkles.

It's one thing for all of us to agree that, yes, we like delightful design and we like apps
that do one thing really well instead of doing a lot of things poorly. But it's another
thing for us to be able to articulate why it is important.

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Why is delightful design important? Why do we like sprinkles on our cupcakes? The
same reason we prefer clothes that fit and food that tastes delicious. Is the taste of our
food necessary for our bodies to absorb the nutrients? Do our clothes have to fit and
look good on us in order for them to cover our skin and keep us warm?

No. But we prefer delicious food over bland, and we buy fashionable and
comfortable clothes when possible.

Would you rather drink gas station coffee or artisan coffee? Both give our bodies
caffeine, but the former tastes like burnt sludge while the latter tastes delicious.

This is why the role of delight in design is so vital.

Delight in design will accomplish the opposite of what friction does. Friction makes us
want to use an app less, while delight makes us want to use an app more.

My Mac’s dictionary defines friction as “conflict or animosity caused by a clash of wills,
temperaments, or opinions.”

When we encounter friction in a product, we are experiencing a conflict generated by
our desire to use a product and the product’s seemingly nonsensical determination to
get in our way.

If you encounter friction in an iPhone app, then you're like, oh man, I don't want to use
that. We don't want to use apps that frustrate us. Because they are friction-full to use,
they become inconvenient, difficult, awkward, and/or annoying.

When we put on an outfit that we don’t like (because it is uncomfortable, it doesn’t fit
properly, or we don’t think we look good wearing it), then we are less likely to wear it
again. If two coffee shops are near one another, we will frequent the one that serves
better coffee.

When we don't enjoy a product, we will use it as infrequently as we can if we don’t
just replace it altogether. In contrast, when we enjoy using something, we will use
gladly and as frequently as possible. And that’s what I mean when I say delightful
design increases usability.
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Adding in these little delightful elements — these sprinkles on the cupcake — actually
increases the usability of our products and our services. Not in a raw functionality type
of way, but in a user engagement type of way.

This means people are interested, willing, and even excited to use our products. Thus,
they're spending more time on the site or in the app. Delight in design encourages
use and engagement because it brings a positive emotion. It greases the skids of
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I live in Kansas City with my wife of 10 years,
Anna, and our two sons, Noah and Giovanni.

I’m a creative-director-turned-full-time-writer
who works for myself from home publishing a
few tech- and design-centric websites.

Tank you for reading. It has been delightful.

— Shawn
If you enjoyed this sample, buy the whole book and the
accompanying audio interviews at