🔭 A Simple Format To Distil What You Learn
Edition 090 of Design Insight
Hi there 👋 I'm Michelle and this is Edition 090 of Design Insight. A weekly newsletter about creativity and design.
Let's get started.
A simple format to distill what you learn i.e. the format for this newsletter and how I came up with it.
It's surprising and fascinating how our minds can make unconscious connections we don't realize.
I was going through some random notes in my Obsidian vault and came across this one: ICE Method For Active Note Taking (Source).
Upon reading it I was immediately surprised that I recognized it. I use a version of ICE to write my newsletter each week. This link didn't occur to me when I was revising my newsletter layout but it must have been in there deep in the darkest corner of my mind ready to be used.
It's amazing to me how this happened!
Here's the note from when I first brainstormed the newsletter format:
I can't exactly remember how the structure came to mind but I can kind of piece it together looking back.
When I used to read Justin Welsh's newsletter I enjoyed that there was a formula/structure to them. Justin breaks this down in this video. I liked the idea of having a defined structure for each edition so readers would know what to expect each week.
A structure would also make writing the newsletter easier as I could work within the constraints of the headings to guide what I wrote about.
I asked myself: what do I want to achieve with the newsletter? and I worked from there.
Well, I wanted to explore my curiosity, learn new things, and share what I learned with interested readers. I imagined the structure like a science experiment I did back in Chemistry class. You put forward a hypothesis, perform an experiment, and evaluate the results.
With all this swirling around in my head I settled on: Observation, Context, Learning, Outcome. I describe this in more detail below.
Here's the ICE format (Source):
# OBSERVATION - When I notice something interesting, I use this tag to make a note of it. It is like using a keyword as a highlight.
# INSIGHT - What is an insight about this observation? Also you can have multiple insights from one observation.
# CONCEPT - What are some ideas for how this insight could be put to use? You can also have multiple concepts from one insight.
# EXECUTION - What specific steps can you take to execute on the concept? This becomes a list of specific tasks you can do in support of your projects and concepts. You can also have multiple executions from a single concept, or by combining concepts.
Here's my newsletter format:
Observation: Something I noticed, something that struck me, or something I just found out and wanted to know more about.
Context: What I was doing at the time and how I came across the observation.
Learning: What I learned when I dug deeper. When I went down the rabbit hole as I like to say.
Outcome: What conclusions I'd draw as a result of my deep dive. How I internalized what I learned. How what I learned connects with other things I know.
As you can see there's a similarity between the two which fascinated me to no end when I first made the connection.
After discovering this connection, I wondered if I should update the format to more closely reflect the ICE format. But I ultimately decided against it as I'm happy with how it is. I did spend some time thinking about better names for each of the headings but I think honestly they're pretty clear as they are so no changes are necessary.''
Since adopting this format I've found my desire and ability to write have improved. I'm encouraged to explore things I'm genuinely curious about. This in turn translates to how much and how easily I can write about those topics.
I'm learning a lot more and taking more information in whereas before it would have been in one ear and out the other.
If you're thinking about starting a newsletter of your own or simply starting a blog, I'd encourage you to "steal" this format and conduct your own learning experiments.
🔗 Curated Links
A collection of links I found interesting this week:
Did you know David Bowie was in a video game and wrote the music for it?!
I watched a lot of videos about collage this week but this series was the best for practically getting started: How To - 003 - How to Compose a Collage - YouTube
Discovered this hilarious history parody show called Cunk on Britain: Cunk on Britain Ep 1 - YouTube
A Genius Cartoonist Believes Child’s Play Is Anything But Frivolous - The New York Times
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Til next week 👋