Why All Designs Are Compensations For Not Having Telepathy and Teleportation
Every other Wednesday, we at Spoiled Milk have a group meeting that ends with one of us doing a presentation on the subject we work with, or are just curious about in general.
We’ve had presentations on iOS development, the internal processes we run our projects by, and just about everything else related to running a company like ours.
Being the new kid on the block, it was my turn last week, and I figured my presentation should be a combination of introducing myself, what I’m interested in as well as what I’ll be working with at Spoiled Milk.
So, my name is Mark, I’m a User Experience Designer, and I started working in the Copenhagen office at the beginning of 2012.
I recently graduated from Copenhagen Business School, but before that I was fortunate enough to land myself an internship at Google in Zurich last fall.
At Google, I worked with my fellow Dane and UX Designer, Morten Just, who one day at lunch asks me if he has ever told me about his theory of all design being compensation for not being able to do telepathy and teleportation.
Flabbergasted, I answered no, I hadn’t heard that. But as we came to talk more about it, I found that he’s absolutely right.
Part of this blog post is written in an airport, one of the most designed (if you can call something more or less designed) spaces on Earth. Me being here is a compensation for not being able to just think I’d like to be somewhere else.
It’s a better compensation in this situation than going by train, car or bicycle, so with personal transportation, I think we’ve moved somewhat closer to actually performing teleportation.
The same goes for the mobile phone. I can talk to someone in New Zealand, just as easily as I can talk to someone down the road. All the while I still sit at my desk.
But that’s also telepathy. Language is great for moving thoughts between our minds, and by telling you how I feel, you can get a peek into my head, so to speak.
These are examples of technology that make our lives much easier, by being designed to help us and aid us in solving our problem at hand.
At the same time, I sit in a different airport right now than the one I was in yesterday, because the plane I was about to fly home with, had a mechanical failure.
It was pretty far from a seamless experience, and that is where I see designers’ biggest challenge (and opportunity) lie.
More or less everything we touch during the day is what I would define as technology. We put on clothes to bring the warmth of our home with us as well as use bicycles to amplify our muscles’ power output. That is technology.
The artifacts we use to do this with are all designed by someone. The *designer* might have spent only a little time on it (and then we all know what happens next), or a lot (which isn’t necessarily great either).
The moment you pick up a stick from the ground in the forest to aid your walking, it’s taking the wood out of its natural element, and into an artificial one. The moment you did so, you designed the wood for a new situation.
It wasn’t hard or difficult, and you probably didn’t think much about it because it fits the situation so well.
But there are still seams in the experience.
The wood might be wet and slippy, it might have thorns or it might be fragile and break when you try walking up the hill, supporting your weight on it.
This happens every day with almost every kind of technology you can think of, and it’s a great opportunity for design to come through and help the user get up again and move on with their business.
However, if we take a look at the broad view again, I’d love it if we could all try to imagine how the stuff we put into the world will help us move closer to telepathy and teleportation.
Twitter and Instagram are my two favorite services that help me do so at the moment.
With Twitter, I can follow people I admire and think are clever and funny, and they are gracious enough to let me look into their minds, making me smarter as a result.
Instagram let’s me see what others see, and I can jump from Copenhagen or New York to Santiago and Tokyo with just a flick of my thumb.
I wish all design would bring me closer to achieving these goals and make the seams I encounter along the way much more beautiful.
Then I think we’d all live in a place that’s a little more fun and enjoyable.
If you are so inclined, you can read more about designing for telepathy and teleportation in my blog post on the subject of my Master’s Thesis: “The Post-Functional Paradigm: Why all designs are compensations for telepathy and teleportation.“
Photo by Gregory Crewdson.