Pattern Recognition

by See-ming Lee
How I navigate life

I wrote on some of my posts that I navigate life through pattern recognition. Occasionally, people who don’t know me would send me DMs asking if I have autism. I don’t — apples are red, but not all red fruits are apples.

Pattern recognition is how I understand the world, but it doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily autistic.

If you don’t understand what pattern recognition is, there’s a novel by William Gibson called Pattern Recognition (2003). It’s the closest thing I’ve come across that’s similar to how I think. The story is not so remarkable, but it hits home as soon as I picked up the first chapter.

I don’t usually read fiction, so I don’t even know why I picked the book up. But I did — possibly because through pattern recognition, I recognized that it could be something meaningful to me. Trusting my gut has never failed me — even if logically it can’t be easily explained.


Intuition: Logic vs Gut

Intuition — or trusting the gut — is something important to me. I think, partially, it’s why the passage “And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition” from Steve Jobs (2005) really resonates with me.

I have a tendency to overthink when I iterate on designs, and so for that, I appreciate Oliver Kartak (during private conversations) for reminding me that “gut” is the most important aspect in design. Thank you.

The design program at Yale is primarily based on Bauhaus philosophy — Josef Albers, a student as well as teacher at Bauhaus, was the one who started the graphic design program at Yale.

In Bauhaus, we’re taught that we must be able to explain every decision — why typeset this text in this font, why at this size, why not half a point bigger or smaller, why place the text at this location, why not 1mm to the left or right. These are decisions that we must be able to articulate.

But in so being able to meticulously articulate all of these decisions, sometimes the “gut” which was the concept from which we derived our designs can sometimes be lost.

It’s a difficult balance. In the end, my current thinking is that both are important — but recognizing that we must not let logic overtake our heart is something important to remember.

Glossary for Old People

DM. Direct Message.

Also known as Private Message (PM). When you send a private message to a friend on an app that’s public by default, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.