“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Pleasures of Good Design

This week I have acquired two new belongings, both of which are giving me enormous pleasure. One is high-tech and one is no-tech, but the reason for the pleasure is the same: both are fit for purpose, and both are highly complex things that are easy to use. Both are well designed - using the criteria in the image below.

(image: blog.echoenduring.com)

The high-tech one is a new mobile phone - the contract on my old one, which I've never been happy with, because I've never understood how it works, ran out at the end of last month, and a friend of mine had just got a very good deal on an iPhone 4. So I made enquiries, discovered that the same deal was open to new customers, and it arrived yesterday.

It feels all wrong to extol the virtues of a consumer item on this blog, but this phone really is a pleasure to use - for a non-techie like me, the interface is delightfully intuitive and user-friendly, and I really don't care that it's not the latest model. I can dimly appreciate the hugely complex programming which must underlie this user-friendly interface, and marvel that the result of such complexity is simplicity.

I gave up smoking (hopefully for good this time) last Friday, so to keep my hands and brain busy, I have treated myself to a new cross-stitch kit. It could not be more different than the phone - there is no electronic technology involved at all - but the pleasure of unpacking it all, sorting the threads and starting to stitch a new project will be one that is familiar to all craft-loving friends.

In a way, it is the most complicated stitching project I have ever attempted - there are 16 different stitches as well as cross-stitch, but the design is wonderful and the chart is clear and easy to follow, and it's going to look spectacular when it's finished. Like my phone, the chart is fit for purpose, and therefore a pleasure to use.

Enjoying these new belongings - the phone and the chart - has made me appreciate anew the pleasure of good design. If an object is well-designed, form will follow function, and it will be simple to use and make the life of the user that much easier and more pleasurable. It has also made me reflect on how comparatively rare such good design is. My old phone is a good example - it had all sorts of wonderful features, but I could never work out how to use them, so I ended up just using it for texts and phonecalls, which was such a waste.

So I'm going to carry on enjoying my two new possessions, the more in that I appreciate the human ingenuity that has gone into their design.

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