Hungry Scalpels

Adrian Hanft
2 min readJan 20, 2018

A wise designer’s sharpest tool is an ability to reduce.

Reduction requires a ruthless desire to slice through the clutter searching for a truth worth saving. Find truth and our job feels like a noble occupation.

But if truth is elusive, if you slice away all the irrelevance and there’s nothing left, that’s where designers get a bad name. Because without that little bit of integrity, without that tiny morsel of truth at the heart of a project, designers are forced to compensate.

We invent flashy graphics to mask the meaningless. It’ll look pretty, but it is beautiful in the same way that deodorant smells beautiful.

Without truth our noble purpose is reduced to styling. We become masters of the combover. “Trust us,” we say. “Nobody will notice.” But they do.

At our worst, designers abandon our scalpels. Instead of reduction we expand the disorder by lavishing frosting on half-baked ideas and squirting glitter on the confusion. We are the cleaners, accomplices to the mob who get called in after the crime. We destroy the evidence and hope we don’t leave any fingerprints on the feculence.

When we are at our best, designers are minimalists with hungry scalpels slicing away everything unnecessary so that we can magnify what really matters. Our job is to amplify the truth and eliminate everything else. Occasionally we uncover words that transcend.

Would you agree that the web is in desperate need of the surgical touch of caring designers? Next week I am going to take you on a journey to the heart of the web. The web is bloated and gluttonous. We will exercise our hungry scalpels to cut away the layers of excess. What will we find? Is there a truth worth saving at the heart of the web?

Put fresh blades in your X-actos, my friends. Next Saturday the web goes under a designer’s knife. Stay creative.



Adrian Hanft

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