Designing for rest instead of frenzy
This last week I attended Brooklyn Beta, one of two conferences that are must-attend for me. During a late night whisky-thon with Cameron we were talking to several of the web’s most talented and discussing the idea that we should be designing to the best of people instead of the worst. We talked about feeds. The endless stream of new content. Feeds are an over-saturated flow of thoughts, ideas, pictures, quotes, drivel, and opinion—all published to the web.
This can produce franticness, a need to keep up. I heard one of my favorite designers recently suggest, “it’s like Twitter has turned me into a personal PR machine”. We are influenced to constantly keep up with our personal public representation. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, News Feeds, Tumblr, Instagram, and others like them all pulse with activity, building confidence with stakeholders and investors. This is sold to us as a place to connect with people, they are “social” networks. Undoubtably much good has come through these mediums, but at its core are these mediums for community truly good for us?
How do we design for communication that has natural and human boundaries? Boundaries like sleep, life-span and death, hunger and thirst, triumph and failure, knowledge and wisdom, immaturity and playfulness. This summer I re-learned to exercise and diet. I had to take care of my 34-year-old body so that it might last another 40. It’s not good for me to gorge on pizza and beer, though I crave it fortnightly. It’s good for me to enjoy pizza and beer but I must weigh that it has an economic and physiological cost that I have to be prepared to pay.
The cost of digital content is much more subtle. I’m able to rack up immeasurable, fractional, digital debt in the form of tweets, responses, comments, photos, inspiration, reaction, access, passwords, usernames, opinions, ideas, and the list goes on until I find that I have changed. I am becoming what I must be to balance and interact with the content around me or I risk being lost below the waves. I’m enslaved to a system.
But as a designer, this isn’t just a personal question of whether or not I should go on a digital diet. The question is whether I’m serving good to those who use and receive my design. If you’re building products, or making things for the web, I think it’s your question too.