Lambros Petrou
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit!" — Aristotle

Banana or Human, and Marginal Degradation

A few months ago I attended a talk given by Monotype’s Steve Matteson who designed awesome fonts like Open Sans, Android’s Droid family and Microsoft’s Segoe family among others, and by Mark Boulton who is now Design Director at Monotype and founder of Mark Boulton Design, which was acquired by Monotype :)

The talk was pretty great and as you can imagine from their background, it was about Typefaces and their importance in a brand’s or a product’s value. Yes, I am a software engineer but I do care about the design and the aesthetics of my work! As much as I hate Apple, Steve Jobs was the leading exemplar of the fusion between technology and design, and will always be one of my role models.

Anyway, the one thing that stood out and impressed me the most out of the talk was Mark’s speech about Marginal Degradation. I found it so basic and simple but at the same time so powerful that it just sticked to my mind. After a few days I decided to read more about it and found a related article in Mark’s blog which is basically a scripted version of what he said. I always paid attention to the smallest detail, but after reading and hearing about this I just made it a habit! I will give you a brief summary below but I encourage you to read the whole article.

Banana vs Human DNA

Here’s a few fun facts… - Gorillas share 98.4% of our DNA - Goldfish share 68% - Bananas share 50%

Bananas. Are 50% the same as us.

Read the above quote, then read it again, and then again one last time!

Only 1.6% of DNA differentiates us from gorillas and we are half-way to becoming bananas! Don’t get all fancy science genius with me now, I don’t know how much really that is in DNA world, but the fact still holds. Even the slightest marginal degradation of our DNA can make us inferior.

Now consider this to whatever you do. I write code as a living, you might be writing literature, or you might be designing the next website for the most awesome startup ever. You have to pay attention to detail, even the smallest one! Do not let anyone tell you “Just do it quickly for now, the manager wants it urgently. We can revisit this later.” No, you will not revisit it later and you will not fix this little sucker. It is there and it will stay there, degrading and sucking out the value and quality of your product.

Your brand or design is supposed to be a human, but people perceive it as a gorilla. Or a banana.

You have to really think the consequences of everything you sacrifice by not giving 100% of yourself in doing something. It might seem like a tiny thing at the moment, but if you take into account all those little tiny things you sacrificed over the years, you will find out how much you deviated from your original goal.

Nobody wants his product or brand to be seen as a banana, when it was supposed to be a human!


  • Pay attention to the details!
  • Do not sacrifice quality for a moment’s weakness or lack of time!
  • Always have in mind the original goal/target of what you want to achieve, otherwise every little deviation might lead to something entirely different!