The Design of Software (CLOSED)

A public forum for discussing the design of software, from the user interface to the code architecture. Now closed.

The "Design of Software" discussion group has been merged with the main Joel on Software discussion group.

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Design vs. Ornimentation

I want to pick up on something Joel said distinguishing ornimentation (brownstone fenistration, etc.) vs. design. We need to be careful here. Design as presented by Joel is not quite the hole story. What the Italians did with stone (and still do in other media) addressed aspects of design that Joels calculus cannot address. They address the fact that we are human, we have eyes connected to brains, we feel, hear, and have memories and emotions. Those aspects can only be addressed by "ornamentation".

I strongly encourage everyone that lives in NYC to stop by Tiffany's on 5th Ave. and take a close look at the Alessi line of silverware. Pick up a fork or knife. Rub your hand over its surface. Pop quiz: try and tell where design stops and ornamentation begins. Not possible. This is sublime synthesis. This is what design at the highest level looks and feels like.

The iPod gets pretty close to Alessi levels of brilliance. Scary close. Harder problem then silverware since it has a CPU + GUI + I/O. It is almost inconcievable to me that Apple could get this close to the sublime.

In my book the Moto Razr is a one trick pony. This nonsense about the power switch was solved by the Finns at Nokia over a decade ago: That actvitiy is relegated to an unobtrusive button that is rarely used and positioned far away from the main keypad area. Sorted.

Perhaps a bit of a stretch but perhaps closer to home, I would suggest that Martin Fowler's "Human Interface" analysis of Ruby can be reframed as a kind of API ornamentation (link:
How else could Ruby feel so pleasant to use? How else could the community of Rubyists be such a cheerful lot?

Most consumer products (due to digitalization and miniaturization) leave room for "ornamentation" to happen. To address our humanity.

Whoops, I'm beginning to ramble. One last thought. In my experience designers come wired that way. No, there is no O'Reilly Design Cookbook. If it ain't in you, it never will be. But you can emulate good designers. You can do less harm. Yes, read Tufte. Yes, go to MOMA. But also go see and touch wonderful design in the wild. It's a beautiful thing.

Doug Turner
skype: dduuggllaa
celly: 781 775 3708
Douglass Turner Send private email
Friday, January 27, 2006
Yep, you got it.
Sassy Send private email
Friday, January 27, 2006

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