Beauty in the Immeasurables

A couple of years ago, my best friend and I went on a road trip from Paris, to Grenoble, down the eastern edge of France, and then along the southern coast. Every town or city we passed had a beautifully landscaped place for people to sit around a river or a stream. When I visited Japan, I encountered the same commitment. Commmitments to the immeasurable.

I have been thinking about art and expression and where Design fits into it for the better part of a year now. As I mature, I seek to find creatively satisfying things inside of our industry to maintain my career longevity (yes, this is something I worry about often). Many people end up in Design because they had prided themselves on being creative. In the narrative we’ve been furiously selling of being problem solvers, the creative inside gets lost.

There are immmeasurable things in Product Design[1] we ignore because we are afraid. We are afraid of admitting to beautification. We are afraid of admitting to wanting money. We are afraid of the instinctual decisions. I came across an article recently which discusses our reliance on users to design,[2]

The most elegantly crafted tools are those where the purpose of the tool aligns with the purpose of its builder. So the key to building great technologies is to first find your purpose. And you will not find it by polling your users.

The topic of vision comes up once again, which brings me back to what’s been quite frustrating to reconcile. It’s easier to explain data. We all know 2 is larger than 1 so let’s not bother to discuss the rest.

We talk a lot amongst ourselves about opinionated design. Although I bristle at the idea of using the iPhone as an example of excellent product design, I can’t help but point out–nobody would have asked for the iPhone. Yet, here we are, hand-computer on us every day. Some of us can’t even walk a few meters away from it.

I have started to set aside more time for the immeasurables. I plan time to be bored. I plan time for silence. I plan time for cloud watching. I cannot say this time is used in a productive way however I have noticed a significant increase in creative output. Creative satisfaction has hit an all-time high for me.

I do not subscribe to the idea that we are all just problem solvers. Problem solving is definitely the primary aspect of my life, but it is informed by everything else within it. Being associated to creative roots isn’t as negative as some make it out to be. I wonder how Product Design would be different if we were a little less defensive and a little more open to the immeasurables.

↩︎ [1] I specifically say Product Design because our slice of the Design world seems particularly enthusiastic about this view but I doubt this is only specific to us.

↩︎ [2] Sep Kamvar, Mastery and Mimicry↗︎

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