Embarrassing designs, 100+ inspiring images, and the complete story of how I fired myself over and over until my book cover was finished

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Today I am going to take you on a trip inside the design process for the cover of User Zero. I will show you hundreds of images that inspired me, all the rejected designs, and my thought process as I waded through the creative swamp until I completed a book cover that I am really proud of.

One of the things I find fascinating about design is the unique ways people generate new ideas. You can learn a tiny bit from studying the end product, but the bigger lessons are in the negative space, in the things that never made it onto the page, the wrong turns, the rejected ideas, and the failures that fizzled out. I want to know what designers are thinking about when they are designing. What were they looking at? Where did they go for inspiration? How did they unblock themselves when they got stuck? …


A How-To Guide for Editing the Simulation

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Note: The following letter is a sample of my weekly email to friends. It’s free to sign up and new subscribers get Art of the Living Dead for free just for subscribing.

Dear friend,

Let’s say you could load 2020 into a simulation that you could replay on your computer over and over. I know that sounds like torture but stick with me…

Once the 2020 simulator is on your computer, you could experiment with editing. Digitally you could experiment with violence, dropping bombs on Wuhan and assassinating world leaders. For fun you could inflict calamities on your co-workers and political rivals just to watch them suffer. Perhaps you would feel guilty for inflicting pain on your enemies. …


How 2020 is breaking the permanence illusion

“We are powerfully imprisoned by the terms in which we have been conducted to think.” — Buckminster Fuller

This might be the most optimistic view of the pandemic, maybe even life in general, that you will ever read. Sure, I have my bad days, but this isn’t one of them. Today I want to give you more hope than you ever thought possible.

But before I can show you utopia, I need to destroy some solid statues that were erected in your mind long ago

Think back to your education, to those early days when everything was still possible. I don’t know you, but I can say with certainty that there is maybe a 1% difference between the schools you and I attended. Your history is my history. Sure, the scenery was different, the cast of teachers and role models varied, the quality of the physical stuff was all different, but the knowledge strategy was nearly identical. …


This is the story of how I created one of the strangest cameras you may ever hear about. I’ve been working on the design for over a year and I’m finally ready to share it with the world. It’s a long story, but first I want to jump to the end. Here’s what the final camera looks like as well as what a photo take with it:

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I signed up for ETHDenver 2020 hoping to learn more about cryptocurrency. What I came away with was questions about the viability of, well, everything. Yes, the blockchain promises to revolutionize our world, but it’s more than that. The thing that stood out after a weekend at ETHDenver wasn’t the tech, it was the people and the process. Let me try to explain what I saw and why it is important.

ETHDenver takes place at the Sports Castle, an old warehouse building that has nothing at all to do with sports or castles. With chipped paint, brick walls, exposed wires, and boarded up windows, the Sports Castle comes equipped with all the pleasantries of a hacker dystopia. The film crew for Mr. …


and 3 other reasons not to join my mailing list…

I’ve started a new writing project Letter Zero. I want to send my twisted blend of technology critique, storytelling, and ideas for creative energy management right to your inbox. But before I ask for your email address, I should warn you…

Letter Zero isn’t a normal mailing list. In fact, it is my goal to be nothing like the other stuff gunking up your inbox. So just so we are clear, you should know 3 things about Letter Zero.

1. It won’t be pretty
2. It won’t be short
3. It will be uncomfortable

Have I lost you yet? Perhaps I should…


I entered 2019 with more optimism than I have ever had going into the new year. I just felt like big things were on the horizon. I was right. Just as my time at Runcoach was coming to an end I found a new job at Nutrien and have spent this year immersing myself in the world of agriculture. It may seem like a shift for me to get away from fitness technology, but the similarities between optimizing human performance and equipping farms to feed the world are surprisingly parallel. …


How to use Apple’s signature noise-canceling earbuds to drop into a creative flow

A close up shot of AirPods Pro in between its packaging box and a pink notebook.
A close up shot of AirPods Pro in between its packaging box and a pink notebook.
Photo: Daniel Romero/Unsplash

I am always looking for hacks that allow me to get into the zone faster, stay there longer, and increase my creative output. Here’s a new trick that has been working for me lately.

You may recall my previous advice on how to trigger flow with coffee. The idea here is the same. Our bodies are programmable, and if we are intentional about the inputs we allow into our system, we can optimize how we experience the world. …


4 Mental Traps to Avoid When Evaluating the Design of Tesla’s Truck

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As the Cybertruck continues to blow up the internet, occasionally my Zombie Mobile story gets referenced. If you add the Cybertruck to my matrix of crossover vehicles you could come to the conclusion that the Cybertruck is the vehicle we have been asking for. Defenders of the Cybertruck’s design point at criticism of crossovers and say, “You can’t criticize the uniformity of car design and then complain when something breaks the mold.” Allow me to frame the situation differently.

The premise of my upcoming book, User Zero is that humans often lack the skills to evaluate our tools. Instead of understanding what makes one thing good and another thing bad, we resort to gut reactions based on style and brand preference. We find ourselves in situations where the quality of objects is invisible. Conversations inevitably devolve into, “If you hate/love the Cybertruck, you are a Nazi.” Is it possible to evaluate the design of the Cybertruck without resorting to tribal warfare? …


Boston Marathon Data Analysis, Part 3

Registration for the 2020 Boston Marathon has closed and there is a brand new set of data ready for analysis. If you are one of the runners who was accepted, congratulations! Qualifying for Boston is not easy, and as we will see shortly, it shows no signs of getting easier.

As you might remember from my first analysis, the qualifying standards needed to be adjusted in 2020 because so many people were being turned away. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 runners who applied in 2019 were rejected despite having ran fast enough to qualify. Although the 5 minute adjustment helped, another 3,161 people were turned away this year. …

About

Adrian Hanft

Author of User Zero: Inside the Tool that is Reshaping Dystopia

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