Dan Mall Teaches

Math: A Great Design Tool

Published 3 months ago • 1 min read

Reading time: around 1 minute

I’m an ambitious person, which means I attempt things that might be scary or intimidating to other people—starting businesses, public speaking, etc. It’s not that they’re any less scary to me. It’s that I’ve assembled tools over years that help me get over the fear or trepidation more quickly than others.

For example, one of the upcoming projects I’d to tackle soon is to revive the dormant social media accounts for Design System University.

But ugh. Emotionally, it feels like a mountain of work that I’m not looking forward to.

That is, until I introduce it to one of my favorite design tools to make work feel more approachable. Emotional mountain of work: meet my good friend, Math.

Math suggests, “Let’s put some specificity to the vague ‘revive social media accounts’ brief. How ’bout 1 month’s worth of posts?”

As soon as I start adding specificity—specifically by adding a number—it gives me some more action to take. What is 1 month’s worth of posts? Maybe it’s posting 3 times per week, for a grand total of 12 posts (3 posts per week × 4 weeks).

Suddenly, making 12 posts doesn’t seem so daunting. I can make 12 posts.

How long would it take to make 12 posts?

Let’s say it takes me about an hour to make 1 post, which feels pretty generous. That’s 12 hours. If I block out the next day and a half for this, I’ll be done in 2 days max.

Knocking out 2 days of work feels much more doable than a nebulous “1 month’s worth of posts”… even though they’re the same thing.

Scoping is a key part of valuable design work, but very few designers are ever shown how to do it. All it takes is a little Math.


💬 Feedback

How’d you like today’s email?

👍 Loved it / 👎 Hated it

Dan Mall Teaches

by Dan Mall

I teach designers how to get the respect they deserve. I share tips, tricks, and tools about design systems, process, and leadership.

Read more from Dan Mall Teaches

Reading time: around 1 minute It's easy to open a gym membership. It’s hard to schedule time to go to the gym every week. It's easy to start a blog. It’s hard to schedule the time write a blog post every week. It's easy to buy a bunch of plants. It’s hard to remember to water them every week. It's easy to create a bunch of design tokens. It’s hard to carve out time to answer the Slack posts from all the people using your design tokens. It's easy to sign up your kid for swim class. It’s hard...

1 day ago • 1 min read

Reading time: around 2 minutes Thrice, I’ve been involved in business-related lawsuits. The first time, an agency subcontracted my agency SuperFriendly to do work for a client through them. The work was ambitious and exciting, and it had a ridiculously tight deadline. Our team came up with some pretty creative solutions that worked within agreed-upon constraints. In the meeting where I was supposed to present the ideas to the client, the agency’s CEO—who hadn’t been involved in the work at...

9 days ago • 2 min read

Reading time: around 6 minutes “Looks like you’re killing it.” “Someday I want to be where you are in your career.” “You seem so grounded and focused about pursuing what you want.” “It seems like this new phase of your career is going well.” These are just a few messages I’ve received lately from some of my friends and social media followers. I’m incredibly flattered by these messages. It feels good to be recognized. I also feel wholly delusional about it, as what people seem to be seeing...

30 days ago • 6 min read
Share this post