Style Guide

In 1945 New Mexico, the first atomic bomb is detonated:

  • Around and inside a building labelled "convenience store" which appears burnt out, a procession of circulating woodsmen takes place.
  • Floating in a void, the Experiment a white humanoid form spews a stream of primordial/ectoplasmic fluid
  • Amongst various ova oozing in said fluid one darker globule manifests BOB's visage.

Red and gold imagery follows like burning embers, a fireworks radiation of atomic energy.

This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.

In an imposing windowless building atop a staggering craggy outcrop amidst an endless purple sea, Señorita Dido sits next to a imposing metallic bell shaped form/machine, listening to the music of a phonograph.

Photo of New York City skyline
New York, New York, a helluva town

Body copy

Adapted from some notes I sent to Tim Brown via a Slack DM:

Always think about the story of what you’re working on.

How would you explain your work — and the context around it — to someone who knows way less than you do. The story is key.

Photo by Jianqiu Jia / Unsplash

Whether or not you use user or job stories in your development process, at a minimum every product/project must have something like a high-level user story explaining what problem it’s meant to solve, for whom, and why that matters. That core story should then inform everything else you do as PM to define and prioritize the work to make the product.

And it must be brief. I’d say if your core user story is longer than two sentences, it’s too long.

Narrative complete > minimum viable

Katie Dreier introduced me to the concept of “narrative complete”, as an alternative to “minimum viable” when defining a product. You need to be able to explain how what you’re doing fits into a story about the user; your viability threshold is whatever it takes to make that story complete and—I would argue—interesting. That is: you do not need to ship the most expansive and elaborate potential version of your product, but you mustship something that completes the user story, without leaving gaps or holes that the user must fill in with other products or via workarounds.

Photo by The Honest Company / Unsplash

(There may/will be times where you must leave a gap, because not shipping is worse for the user than shipping something incomplete, especially if the gap affects only relatively few members of your audience.)

Make it concrete.

Wherever possible, don’t describe ideas or values or anything abstract. Describe things or outcomes in real-world terms. Try very hard to imagine the actual lived experience of the moment your thing comes into the world, and then try to describe that — both what it’s like (what has changed in the world to create that moment, where your thing exists) and what it means (why it’s different and better than the moment prior, where it did not exist), both through the eyes of someone else.

If something cannot be described concretely, that’s almost always — I mean 99.9% likely — a sign that it’s not well enough understood.

I also try very hard to focus on mechanics of things. Cause and effect — what happened, and then what happened as a result. Why was that effect important?


Now this is a tweet:

And this is a video:

And, finally, this is an Instagram: