Systems for Improving as a Magician

Magic Advice from a User Experience Designer

Systems for Improving as a Magician

I want to share two systems with you, each of which has helped me become a better magician.

If you perform magic 100% of the time, these are probably all things you’ll have worked out by yourself already. But if you’re a hobbyist or a part-timer (like me), it may take some time to develop these systems organically. So this article is a shortcut for you — what a lucky bunch you are!

Before we jump in: why should you listen to me?

Let me first introduce myself. I’m Paavan. I’m a magician… but I’m not only a magician. For my day job, I work as a user experience designer, making apps and websites. And before that, I did a computer science degree at Oxford. 

Both of these experiences have given me an understanding of the power of thinking logically and using systems, which I’ve transferred to all parts of my life. Many people think that design is a creative field, but actually, the best-designed products have an intrinsic consistency, which allows end-users to intuitively understand how those products work. Thinking systematically about designing helps to achieve this. 

For example, take a look at this screenshot:

Notice the icon in the top right corner. That’s a menu or ‘hamburger’ icon — and, odds are, you’ll know what will happen when you tap on it. This is an example of a reusable pattern or system. All the best websites lean into this because they know visitors to that site will find it familiar. It’s not a bad thing — it’s actually something really good, as it gives people a sense of trust.

So, enough background. What are the two systems I’ve come up with?

The first one is this:

Have a destination in mind for your hands at every part of your routine.

Let me explain:

When practising magic tricks, we often focus on practising the sleights. It’s easy to do 100 double lifts while watching TV. What we don’t practise (as much) are the moves in between the sleights. This could be transitioning between tricks in a routine, or ditching a gimmick (or bringing in a different gimmick), or could even be asking the spectator for something (which is therefore harder to practise alone, without spectators).