Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Gizmo Design

I'm reading a very fascinating book by Bruce Sterling called Tomorrow Now. One notable section (Stage III: The Lover) is really all about design: product and interaction design. Or as he refers to it, Gizmo design.

"The ninteenth century made machinery. The twentieth century made products. The twenty-first century makes gizmos. In a "product" form follows function. There isn't much decoration...For a gizmo, the function is the decoration. A gizmo...has more functions than the user will ever be able to master, deploy, or exploit. It's designed to have baroque or even ridiculous amounts of functionality."

Whoa. This definately goes against like likes of, say, Alan Cooper or Don Norman, who are all about simplification of interfaces. But wait, there's more...

"A gizmo...doesn't want you to accomplish any task in particular. It wants a relationship; it wants to be an intimate experience...It wants you engaged, it wants you pushing those buttons, it wants you faithful to the brand name and dependent on the service."

Ok, so, why would people buy these gizmos if not to accomplish tasks? Just to have them because they are cool? Sterling argues that more and more, tasks are about establishing connections and relationships, not about accomplishing things in and of themselves. I'm not sure I necessarily agree with that. My job is about as information age as you can get, but even so it isn't only about connecting with people and thoughts. There are also things that need to be done and created.

"End users don't want to solve problems. A solved problem is actively dangerous for them. Any end user with a permanent solution has lost a job...This also explains whyend users don't settle for cheap, simple, fully usable software. After all, if software is simple and useable, then anyone can use it. End users...can't afford to be just anybody, because this is a swift ticket to poverty."
Double whoa. No one really wants software that is simple and useable. It's a very interesting theory, especially for high-end users. Which, he apparently thinks, one day everyone will be.
"A gizmo needs an interface, and an interface for its interface...Even its web pages need web pages. And this is where you work."

Ouch. That is where I work.

Like I said, a fascinating book, with much to think about.

Posted at 01:51 PM | comments (0) | trackback (0)


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