Three Pipe Problems by Jason VanLue


I love the title of this book, Three Pipe Problems by Jason VanLue (and the artwork is sweet to boot!).

I had dinner with Jason last week and he handed me a copy of his book which is a book centered around design.

But if I were to leave it at that then I’d do the quick read (I read it from cover-to-cover on a flight from Atlanta to Durham which is about 50 minutes) a grave disservice as it’s a commentary on how design is so much a part of our lives.

I love the design of the book.

I love the design of the book.

“Three Pipe Problems” is a reference from the one and only Sherlock Holmes who is struggling with a mystery which requires much contemplation and thought – three smoke pipes worth in terms of time:

It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.

I love how Jason sets up the context of his assault on design-thinking by strongly suggesting that we answer problems too quickly instead of allowing time to marinate on the problem at large. This is a struggle I know all too well.


In a world where we seem to appreciate immediacy more and more and the speed in which decisions are made (“shortcuts” as well) I think great design requires time. More than that, as Jason suggests, it requires deep study of people; we need a greater sense of empathy for our users so that we might create better solutions.

Based on a talk that he gave at a Creative Morning (and he also used Kickstarter to fund the development!) he expounds concisely on design pragmatism and how it touches all of our lives.

If you have a break then you can dive into the video below but I think the physical read is much more polished and exact:

Thanks Jason for the great read and the gift of a more educated perspective around design. I especially needed it as I walk toward to releasing my latest side project, Desk, and have been thinking critically about design, most recently re-designing the app even before it hits shelves.

Perfect timing.