I’m faced with a design challenge everyday. Sweet! I like it. It’s fun and rewarding to find a solution, if that’s your thing. Like working on a puzzle: finding all the pieces, recognizing what’s their right position, joining them one by one, and finalizing with a composition that only makes sense when everything is together.

That being said, the pieces of the puzzle don’t have a clear shape or color, and a lot is left to analysis, and interpretation. And you don’t even have a reference of how the puzzle is supposed to look like.

Probably is not like putting a puzzle together at all. Whatever. Never mind.

Zie zombies

And who is the target? Who is going to end up looking at that puzzle — or whatever that is — that a UXUI Designer put together? You are. We are. The idle minded. Because that’s what we — the users — are in the end. Our brains are too busy thinking on what we’re going to have for dinner, where, with who, or if we will have take away on our own again. So when we grab the phone, open the browser, grab the TV remote, we’re not actively thinking. Content. That’s what we want.

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When I first heard about this, the fact that users don’t think, I felt disappointed on human intelligence. But after all, one of the must-read books for product designers is called “Don’t make me think”. Like it or not. We are contributing to feed a whole generation of Zombies. Users are zombies.

If you think about it, makes a lot of sense.

They move in big groups, without a clear objective, relying on automatisms and muscular memory, reacting slowly, and paying little or no attention to their surroundings.

Full attention, not necessary

Now, I am not saying that people are zombies. My point is that users are multitasking most of the time they spend in front of their devices. We eat sandwiches, drink coffee, walk around the city, talk to our friends, and listen to music. We even dare to think of more important stuff! Because using an app shouldn’t be cumbersome. After all it’s just a tool. The meanings to an end. And although some tools are far more complicated than others, once we learn to use them we don’t actively read any buttons or labels anymore. We knowwhere everything is. And when something changes we hate it, because it makes us think and reroute our wirings.

When I started designing websites, which would lead to designing software and interfaces, nobody told me psychology would play such a big role. Yet, we don’t get to play with full functioning brains most of the time, we have to make what we can out of 20% of the user’s attention — Yes, I made that number up.

Your users won’t be reading half of the labels, nor what the buttons say. They will type in what they consider that should be typed in, wherever they consider its supposed to be. And they will click that big chunk of color that looks like a button, and will always click and tap on the image, not the text. To make that easy, the design has to avoid possible distractions.

In order to make a user interface work, we have to strip it out of all the unnecessary. Here’s an example.

Keeping it simple, visually

A while ago, I work on a project at Asana. We called it Typography Update. During the redesign many hands touched the interface, and many engineers worked on the CSS. The result was great. But part of the collateral damage of having so many moving parts were little mismatches on font sizes, colors, and spacing.

So I went on and reduced the number of styles, fixed inconsistencies, and adjusted the margins. I reduced and standardize the body size, the paragraphs, and their line-height. Headings had the same exact style now, in a couple of different sizes for hierarchy. Project names became tokens almost everywhere. Margins became consistent around the objects, and relative to object their size. And different shades of gray for copy were reduced to only two, based on the contrast ratio with the background.

When I showed the first results to the product manager she couldn’t see the actual changes. She asked “How did you do that? You didn’t change anything and it looks way better!”. The multiple styles and little inconsistencies had been adding noise and clutter. Imperceptible. Little by little. Too many instruments going for a solo at the same time. We were making the brain work overtime, and forcing it to think. Not a lot. But more than what was necessary.

The voices in our heads

Why was this design more effective and harmonious?

Each different style is a new voice you add to the chorus that is the interface. Restricting the number of those will make things easier to process for the user, since they won’t have to register yet another voice in their head. A bunch of small disruptions will cause havoc in their visual field. But restrict it too much, and all the voices will be the same.

My advice then? When adding styles, make them dramatically different. Go from 10 to 14, from blue to black, from regular to bold. It either is really different, or it’s the same. Because zombies can tell a human from a deer apart. But all human are the same to them: just food.

We are idle minded, our list of priorities is to get what we want, not to understand how we are getting it. We are — and want to keep being — idle minded.

So when building a tool, design something that a zombie could use. That is good product design.

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V.

VCs come into action — Breakdown of Spanish investment activity of January 2018

January closes with €195.3 million investments in Spanish startups within 24 operations

  • The Spanish entrepreneurial ecosystem is maturing thanks to investment rounds of more than €10 millions.
  • Barcelona and Madrid continue leading the Spanish ecosystem.


This is the first in a series of posts in which we will do an analysis of the Spanish startup investment landscape. We will look at the overall funding numbers and trends in the country month by month and compare it with data of the previous year.

What are the Spanish investment activities like on a month to month basis? What deals and volumes are we talking about? At what stages are startups prone to search investment and which regions in Spain attract the most funding?

The year 2017 brought us plenty in terms of innovation and investment activity within the area of technological startups, although Spain has been driven by political problems. The developments we have seen in 2018 so far are picking up at just the same fast pace.

January has closed with €195.3 million investments in Spanish startups within 24 operations. Of these funding rounds, highlights are the round of Cabify, Hawkers and Redpoints :

  • Cabify: The ride-hailing app that competes against Uber, has raised €143.3 million ($160) Series E funding round from a mix of previous and new investors, including Rakuten Capital, TheVentureCity, Endeavor Catalyst, GAT Investments, Liil Ventures and WTI, as well as prominent local investors from Spain and Latin America.

When analyzing the structure of financing deals, the increase in venture capital activity in Jan-18 is noticeable in comparison with Jan-17.

#Deals and volume in the Spanish startup investment landscape in January


In terms of the number of deals closed, we have seen a slight downward trend in the country. With a broad participation of Venture Capital, there have been less deals but more capital invested in each transaction. The reason for such a boost is mostly the gigantic financing round of Cabify with participation of giants’ VCs like Rakuten Capital, TheVentureCity and others.

The entry of European, American and Japanese funds investing in Spanish startups are accounting for a large percentage of the growth of the investments in Spain. At the same time, this global investment rise is making the average value of the financial rounds soar up to more than 1.5 times that of the previous year (without taking account of Cabify’s investment, that would turn this factor to more than 6 times the previous year)

The differences between January-2017 and January 2018 in terms of the increase in venture capital activity is shown below:

Startup investment deals by size of round


As we expected to see, the number of operations closed by investment size tends to a larger number in larger deals. While the number of deals of €500k or less have decreased considerably, the number of larger deals have gone up notably. This might be understood as an increasing number of companies maturing and reaching later stages of funding.

To properly ensure the aforementioned, in the following figure we show the breakdown of the investment activity by year of foundation of the company:

Startup investment activity (Jan-18) by year of foundation


Our previous statement is reinforced by this figure. The large transactions take place on established companies. In general, the more years a startup survives, the more established it is. As we observed, in average, the startups that were previously founded are those who raised more funding. That makes sense because normally an older startup has a bigger team and unless it has reached breakeven, it will need more funds to survive.

Startup investment deals by Region



Regarding the breakdown of startup investments by region, Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia bolster their position in the top of Spanish regions:

  • Cataluña (mostly in Barcelona) stands with 9 deals closed and an investment of €19 millions
  • Madrid gathers 7 deals and an investment of €148 million (€143 million in Cabify)
  • Valencia up to 3 deals and €23 million (€20 million in Hawkers)

Operations January 2018: