Six Rings

In my last post I revealed a ring metaphor that positioned Transaction, Intuition, Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. Now that we have made the transition with a majority of the concepts from tetrads to hexads, we can now explore how the Six Hats, Six Coats metaphor can be shifted into the Six Rings metaphor. First, lets call up the Six Hats for review:


As I discussed earlier, Conceptual is the Creative perspective, Contextual is the Compatibility perspective, Logical is the Reliability perspective, Physical is the Economy perspective, Mechanical is the Intuitability perspective and Operational is the Convenience perspective.

And now let’s take this metaphor and shift it into the Six Rings metaphor:


As you can see I have given Creativity the highest order and Convenience the lowest.

With that done, let’s take another look at the Six Coats metaphor:


Motivational is the Goal focus.  Spatial is the Network focus.  Formal is the Data focus.  Functional is the Process focus.  Personal is the People focus.  Temporal is the Time focus.

Now let’s take the Six Coats metaphor and shift it to the Six Rings metaphor:


In the Six Rings metaphor I give Goals the highest order and Time the lowest order.

As you can see in these representations of the Six Hats and Six Coats as rings, there are other implications when we look at the Mix Thirty-Six:


When we look at the Mix Thirty-Six the Blue Hat, Blue Coat requires the least cognitive effort, while the Green Hat, Green Coat requires the greatest. However, the Mix Thirty-Six describes a team and a network. Leadership and communication can follow different emphases and paths between Green Hat, Green Coat and Blue Hat, Blue Coat. And the best Green Hat, Green Coat and the best Blue Hat, Blue Coat has worn the entire Mix Thirty-Six. We will explore this more in future posts by introducing additional metaphors.

Further reading: Six Hats, Six Coats , Mix Thirty-Six and TIDIKW

Mix Thirty-six


The Six Hats, Six Coats metaphor allows you to manage your Perspectives and Focuses for any project. In fact, it allows you to pose thirty-six questions that can make or break a system. In this post I am going to translate the Six Hats and Six Coats into those questions. So, hang on, we’re going to eat the whole enchilada.

1. Conceptual
1.1 Motivational: What goals are available to achieve?
1.2 Spatial: What networks are available to support?
1.3 Formal: What data are available to verify?
1.4 Functional: What processes are available to perform?
1.5 Personal: What people are available to serve?
1.6 Temporal: What schedules are available to meet?

2. Contextual
2.1 Motivational: What goals are we compatible with achieving?
2.2 Spatial: What networks are we compatible with supporting?
2.3 Formal: What data are we compatible with verifying?
2.4 Functional: What processes are we compatible with performing?
2.5 Personal: What people are we compatible with serving?
2.6 Temporal: What schedules are we compatible with meeting?

3. Logical
3.1 Motivational: What goals can we reliably achieve?
3.2 Spatial: What networks can we reliably support?
3.3 Formal: What data can we reliably verify?
3.4 Functional: What processes can we reliably perform?
3.6 Personal: What people can we reliably serve?
3.7 Temporal: What schedules can we reliably meet?

4. Physical
4.1 Motivational: What goals can we economically achieve?
4.2 Spatial: What networks can we economically support?
4.3 Formal: What data can we economically verify?
4.4 Functional: What processes can we economically perform?
4.5 Personal: What people can we economically serve?
4.6 Temporal: What schedules can we economically meet?

5. Mechanical
5.1 Motivational: What goals can we intuitively achieve?
5.2 Spatial: What networks can we intuitively support?
5.3 Formal: What data can we intuitively verify?
5.4 Functional: What processes can we intuitively perform?
5.5 Personal: What people can we intuitively serve?
5.6 Temporal: What schedules can we intuitively meet?

6. Operational
6.1 Motivational: What goals can we actually achieve?
6.2 Spatial: What networks can we actually support?
6.3 Formal: What data can we actually verify?
6.4 Functional: What processes can we actually perform?
6.5 Personal: What people can we actually serve?
6.6 Temporal: What schedules can we actually meet?

So, there you have it. Thirty six questions to lead you through the life of a project. As I pointed out in Good Design, your emphasis will probably vary based on how these Focuses interplay as will your Perspectives. However, an complete oversight in any of these Focuses or Perspectives will most likely result in failure or diminished gains. Of course there are many more or even fewer questions you can ask, but I have found this batch to be a healthy standard.

Six Hats, Six Coats


Edward de Bono’s concept of Six Hats on the surface looks creative, but in implementation it falls short. de Bono’s six hats are:

  1. Data (white)
  2. Emotion (red)
  3. Pessimism (black)
  4. Optimism (yellow)
  5. Creativity (green)
  6. Process (blue)

I do not disagree with these six hats. I tip my hat to de Bono. However, I feel that de Bono made a few mistakes. I am going to coin my own Six Hats:


The Conceptual hat is Creativity. The Contextual hat is Compatibility. The Logical hat is Reliability. The Physical hat is Economy. The Mechanical hat is Intuitivity. The Operational hat is Actuality. These are your six Perspectives.

Now, here is where I extend de Bono’s concept. This extension I call the Six Coats:


The Motivational coat is Goals. The Spatial coat is Networks. The Formal coat is Data. The Functional coat is Processes. The Personal coat is People. The Temporal coat is Time. These coats are your six Focuses.

Together, you take your hats and coats and wear them in a set order to get a project done. You start at the top and proceed left to right, row by row, to the bottom. This takes a chaos of perspectives and focuses and turns them into a methodology:


You may notice that the colors of the hats and coats complement each other. This is intentional:

  1. Green = Creatable = Goals = “Because we’re capable.”
  2. Yellow = Compatible = Network = “Because we’re portable.”
  3. White = Reliable = Data = “Because we’re reliable.”
  4. Black = Economical = Process = “Because we’re economical.”
  5. Red = Intuitable = People = “Because we’re intuitable.”
  6. Blue = Actual = Time = “Because we’re available.”

If you follow my blog you will see that my definitions are evolving. This is to be expected as I am learning between and during every post. I hope you enjoy the process with me.

To see a more recent version of the Six Hats, Six Coats model Click Here. 

Information Overload or Organization Underload

Simple Design, Intense Content introduced us to Edward Tufte.

Tufte’s notable talent:  communicating highly complex analytical data in an accessible presentation.  His principles can also be extended to website design.

The relevance of Tufte’s principles was to me to illustrate how much structured information can be compressed if we aren’t limited to cookie-cutter approaches.  However, that implies a tremendous creative effort at least by a few individuals to process and compress information in innovative ways.

Tufte teaches that Information Overload is due to Organization Underload.  An example of this is the number of dimensions one utilizes to structure a design.  In a past post I used this graphic (click to see enlarged):


What I was trying to convey was that there are generic multidimensional strategies well beyond a bipolar organization such as form and function.  One of those strategies is the basic interrogatives which I presented as follows:


Instead of a bipolar organization we have a hexapolar organization.  We are able to take the interaction we are trying to achieve and consider it from a more diverse number of focuses.  This refines our website design by filtering out unnecessary goals, data, processes, browsers, events and audiences and enabling us to enhance what remains. 

If your website is still too complex it may be necessary to consider a duodecapolar (12 focus) organization, but that is outside the scope of this post.  However, I do recommend exploring Faceted Classification.

Good Design

Designers for years have been attempting to portray a system as a bipolar system and are continually trying to strike a balance like children on a seesaw. However, this view of a system is not grand enough. It does not do justice to the many aspects of a system. It leaves a product of design without a spatial context that the system is placed in. It does not consider the temporal contexts to which the system must operate. It does not consider what the goal of the system’s users ultimately is. And, finally, it does not determine how personal the experience the user has when using the system. All it thinks about is the material and its manipulation.

I urge designers to abandon the minimalism of this perspective and recognize the array of focuses any system has and how they interplay. You may ask, “What defines good design?” Of course it depends on who you ask because they each have a different set of variables in different ratios. Of course, my variables and ratios can change as well, but I feel there is a minimum for any interactive system and that is the basic interrogatives. Let’s look at them with a different set of terms than the 5W1H:


First, good design keeps the goals of the user prominently in mind to be effective. Second, good design assumes a form that is materially efficient. Form is “what” function will manipulate. Third, good design requires a function that is effortless. Function is about “how” not “why”. Fourth, good design affords itself spatially in a manner that accessible without being intrusive. Fifth, good design affords itself at the time the user needs it. Good design knows the user’s tempo. Sixth, good design is personal, a liberating democratic product without the need for middlemen like an IT department between the user and the five other variables.

A good design is not a necessarily a balance of all six variables in equal ratios. Design can be distorted by many factors to emphasize an audience with specific needs. What do you think the priorities are in the following Venn diagram?


If you say emphasis on goal, formal and temporal aspects you’re right. And there is an audience for such a system. So when you design determine what your audience’s primary needs are and emphasize the variables accordingly. If you can strike a complete balance great, but remember the axiom: If you try to please everyone, you will please no one.

I am borrowing this representation of design in Venn diagrams from Alan Cooper. I think it is a very expressive way to consider the number of variables in a system and what emphasis they are given. When you are only considering form and function are you short changing yourself of the affordances you need as a designer to meet your client’s requirements?