Canvas for Thinking

Non of our recent work would happen without Figma. From boards with brief breakdown, desk research, data discussions, concept drawings to WIP screenshots, branding guide and UX user journeys. We bring visual thinking to the way we both design and code.

Community in Research

I understand, then, why researchers flock to the safety of institutions. Imagine studying something that nobody else is studying, for reasons you can't really articulate, without knowing what the outcome of your work will be. For the truly obsessed person, the need for validation isn't about ego; it's about sanity. You want to know there's some meaning behind the dizzying mental labyrinth that you simultaneously can't escape and also never want to leave.

Deliberate Practice

  • research started by Anders Ericsson


  • related research:
    • Unison and its way of working with scratchpad
    • Yoshiki Schmitz's research

      As you're typing them they're in a live editing preview mode, but when you press enter they get applied "permanently".

    • s-ol's research

      (...) you don't have to hit enter or a button to make it execute, and you don't have to undo if it didn't do what you wanted it to. The code is continuously parsed and interpreted as it is edited (as long as it is valid). The function-invocations register themselves with the editor UI, which draws these visualisations and keeps state for them as long as the editing session exists and the function invocation is not removed. This lets the user tweak the code and make sure it works, as well as tweak the selections etc. Once the user is happy with the result, they can commit the changes.

Embodied Cognition

  • this is related to situated cognition but I'm not sure if I understand the relation between the two yet, some clues:

    The traditional cognition approach assumes that perception and motor systems are merely peripheral input and output devices. However, embodied cognition posits that the mind and body interact "on the fly" as a single entity. An example of embodied cognition is seen in the area of robotics, where movements are not based on internal representations, rather, they are based on the robot's direct and immediate interaction with its environment. Additionally, research has shown that embodied facial expressions influence judgments, and arm movements are related to a person's evaluation of a word or concept. In the latter example, the individual would pull or push a lever towards his name at a faster rate for positive words, than for negative words. These results appeal to the embodied nature of situated cognition, where knowledge is the achievement of the whole body in its interaction with the world.


Decades of research have established that wealth above a certain level does not add to an individual's satisfaction with life, and older people who have achieved considerable worldly success often report that raising their children and enjoying their adult company has given them more satisfaction than any career recognition they obtained


you should occasionally set yourself some big, ambitious goal, a goal that gets you excited, that makes you want to get up in the morning, and where you've developed a confidence in your own mind that you have a chance of achieving that goal

Knowledge Work Should Accrete

You should do your job in such a fashion that others can build on top of it, so they will indeed say, "Yes, I've stood on so and so's shoulders and I saw further." The essence of science is cumulative. By changing a problem slightly you can often do great work rather than merely good work. Instead of attacking isolated problems, I made the resolution that I would never again solve an isolated problem except as characteristic of a class.

— Richard Hamming - You and Your Research

Research and Day-to-Day

  • Andy organises his days in action-oriented goals (like "spend 3 hours on researching X"), which move him closer to his achievement-oriented goals (like "finish writing first chapter of Y")
    • I'm again really interested in Andy's meta-thoughts and amount of self-awareness that he brings into his work (metacognition)
  • allow myself to be satisfied with research days, where not that much gets made

Research Themes

  • it might be a better idea to form research tracks/themes, than to research a specific thing
    • when you research a specific thing you kind of know what it is already, so there's not that much to gain
    • research theme becomes like a vector of thought pointing in some direction, while allowing for exploration


Spreadsheet for End-User Programming Might be a Wrong Model

  • Eve team did research, and most users use Excel only for layouting, not for calculation

Thinking and Time

On various timescales needed for thinking and research

  • scheduling most productive time for thinking / research instead of other people's priorities (like client work)
  • some days are more teaching, some days are more for research

Time and Experimentation

Understanding through Building

  • building interactive sketches when exploring the solution space of a research problem

Where Do Ideas Come From?

I've advocated "learn everything and then forget it except for the perfume". This can create a mental space for thinking which will inescapably be helped by what we know - it's really hard to completely forget! - but in which what we know (mostly meaning what we believe!) is far enough away to allow us to feel things, listen to our subconscious whispers, and generally barge around.

— Alan Kay -

Zeigarnik Effect

One research study asked students to think about an important exam. Half of the students were asked to put in writing specific plans of what/where/when they would study. Later, all students were asked to do a word association test. The group of students that did not write any study plans produced more word associations related to studying because studying was still on their mind; the group who did write down their study plans did not exhibit a comparable bias during the word association test.

Google I/O

We started by exploring the dataset, using variable in-house pex library, writing a lot of small exploratory apps to test the ideas and see what we are dealing with. We were also researching ways of rendering on such a huge display, in order to keep artifcats away.


Nótt contains six independent loops, up to 8 seconds long, including speed control, sublooping, reverse playing, and custom granular mode. It combines my previous hardware looper experiment - LoopPI and my DIY Monome research.


Because my first time tracking system has been built before I've started tracking time, I have no idea how long it took to build it. The idea was pretty simple though, I wanted to store all the logs in a database, and be able to query and analyse them. The log consisted of starting and ending times, project's name that it belonged to and type either personal or work, later another type, research was added, but I didn't use it much. I also tracked payments with date, amount and project name. Everything was held together by project name, so my tracking was only concerned about how I work on very specific things.

Exploring ReasonML

I enjoyed this month's exploration and learning a new language as nice break from tool-making research.

Laboratory Residency

I was quite tired after last year, where I worked on monthly projects and pushed hard to publish something every month. I also knew that this year would be a bit different due to my personal life, so I had to plan accordingly. I decided to aim for working on one personal project every day, but without any tight deadlines; this could be reading a research paper, exploring some technology if I had time, or playing a bit of music.

Next time, I would probably aim for either fully research/learning related residency, or one where I know almost everything, and produce artwork. I've tried to combine both, and ended up only building the tools, without ever actually making anything bigger with them.

First week was full of learning in the most frustrating way trying and failing over and over again. I still didn't know what exactly I wanted to do, and was exploring different techniques. I finally settled on using SDFs (signed distance fields) after short research on meshing isosurfaces.

Memex Dreams

  • Roam Research web app providing automatically backlinked Zettelkasten-like system
Szymon Kaliski © 2020