“I love my camera. I love it even though I took terrible pictures with it for a month. I love it even though I have to adjust the aperture, worry about depth of field and annoy my family while I twiddle with its metal knobs. I love it because it makes me think: about light, colour, composition. I take fewer pictures with it than I take with my phone, but much better ones. And I’m not alone in my love for my camera. While sales of point and shoot technology continue to decline, the market for fiddly manual cameras is growing nicely.” -Brian Millar
I read a thoughtful article on The Guardian the other day, in which its author, Brian Millar, makes an important point about the need to retain some degree of complexity and difficulty in certain realms of existence in an age permeated by “a kind of religious belief summed up in the mantra: don’t make me think.”
When everything around us is designed to be simple, it stops us thinking and takes away the fulfilment and satisfaction that come from mastery
I’m not suggesting that everything should be designed to be more difficult to use. Toilets have a perfectly good user interface, except in Japan (why do Japanese toilets have a remote control? Where else are you going to be when you flush them?). It’s one of the miracles of the modern age that we are able to wield extraordinarily powerful tools without having even to read manuals. However, sometimes designers have a duty to make us think about that power. When we do, we’ll use things better and enjoy them more.
Millar highlights an important point about the seemingly inverse relationship between efficiency and intent. As more and more aspects of our daily life become simplified or downright automated, it does seem increasingly important to be intentional about designing prompts for awareness and well, intention, throughout our day. Besides, one of the key components of reaching a flow state (and reaping its numerous emotional and cognitive benefits) is finding that sweet spot where a task challenges us to stretch a bit past our current skill level.
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