I wish we'd stop using the word 'design' to mean 'utterly superficial unimportant things that have absolutely nothing to do with how a product is built or functions'.

@natecull "Styling".

So does that make UI/UX / CSS junkies "Web stylists"?

The beauticians and pedicurists of the Infobarn.

@zensaiyuki It was @natecull that launched this. I'm somewhat mixed, though I do agree that there's a distinction between purely aesthetic / nonfunctional styling, and deep architectural design.

@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

Yeah, I'm guilty for this thread.

I feel like it's Apple who led this change in word usage, and then Google et al following on.

'Product design' seems to be primarily about 'how it looks/feels' but it's also touted as if that's the MOST IMPORTANT thing and not.... what the product DOES, how it works, etc.

Style probably IS important for selling a product, so most important for a company, so it's got raised to 'design'. But it doesn't seem like how we fix the world.

@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

and this 'save the world' verbiage isn't something I made up.


They're talking about design as style, not design as engineering.

I don't understand how anyone could possibly think that product styling could save the world. But... some apparently do.

@natecull @dredmorbius how something looks is of course an intricate part of how it works. think about the design of a phone book, or a voting ballot, for instance.

@natecull @dredmorbius to see it that way you have to think about “how it looks” along more dimensions than “good” and “bad” or “in fashion”

@zensaiyuki @dredmorbius

Well, for example, here's my problem:

An enormous amount of time/skill/money is being spent on fine-tuning what cloud apps look like to the user. What the UX is like, are they 'delightful' etc.

NEGATIVE amounts of time/skill/money are being spent on understanding (because very large salaries depend on not understanding) what those cloud apps are DOING to users, society, the economy, ecology etc.

That second one is what needs 'redesigning' imo. Much more than the UX.

@natecull @dredmorbius what you’re missing is thst they very much do understand what the apps are doing to users, and the expensive fine tuning, as you put it, is deliberately, not accidentally, obscuring that.

@natecull @dredmorbius these aren’t B ark hair stylists bickering over the color of a font because it’s frivolous. they’re cognitive psychologists who understand in deep statistical detail how humans behave on a computer

@zensaiyuki @dredmorbius

Yeah. I think in the old days that discipline used to be called something like 'human factors engineering'?

It's certainly important.

But how a product interfaces with the user (and for a tiny range of predefined 'user stories', at that, which often fail to understand how the product is actually used) should be only PART of the whole-system gestalt of the design of a product.

This lack of interest is how we get things like unrecyclable, non-upgradable phones etc.

@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

Mmm yeah, I think that's what's happened.

"Industrial design" (which I think mostly focuses on user-machine interaction?) used to be ONE ASPECT of the wider field of "design", but the "industrial" got dropped.

@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

and yet... no, not quite


It *is* industrial design that I'm thinking of.

But what today's "designer" does in the software product world doesn't seem to be as deep as industrial design used to be.

There seem to be whole aspects of the design that are just... off-limits to today's designers.

Very important things that NEED to be changed... and they're not being changed. They're out of bounds.

Maybe it really is just malice, not stupidity.

@natecull Industrial processes created *objects* or *systems*. They were intrinsically related to *manufacturing* or *construction*.

On computers, you create *media experiences*, something happening, almost always under glass (occasionally: audio, very rarely, 3D or process). Which is to say *a mediated experience*.

We confuse the interface with the system (a problem).

Front-end vs. back-end design.


@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

<< We confuse the interface with the system (a #manifestation problem). >>

This feels very important.

Something that I very much want in industrial/product design is design that *explictly reveals* (manifests, in your sense?) the system behind it.

I find that most of today's UX design deliberately obscures the system. On today's Internet, this seems not just annoying abut actively harmful and dangerous.

@natecull Back in your retrocomputing explorations you noted that intrinsic to the idea of a "personal computer" was that the user *programmed the damned thing*.

That is, users weren't passive operators or worse, consumers, but *engaged* with their systems.

The proprietary software world (and hardware vendors) *VERY* quickly realised that was simply Not Profitable.

So everyting gets hermetically sealed.

See Neal Stephenson's "In The Beginning Was the Command Line".


@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

Right. A lot of us oldies have similar feelings.

A related idea that's struck me:

I think what the world needs a lot more of is 'engineering-type' design - working on actually important problems, not just how to hypnotise users into being happier as they consume more corporate product that's bringing disaster to the Earth.

But. I don't like that word 'engineering' because it implies you have to be an elite to even get a chance to engage at that level of design.

@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

I think *everyone* should be able to have a go at 'redesigning things', especially things they are close to and control, and not have to be a member of a professional engineering body to do it.

But... it's hard to convey this when we don't have a word for it any longer. We've removed that word 'design' in the informal-engineering sense, and so... how can we talk about the desperate need for it?

@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

Maybe this is why people have started to use that terrible term, 'life hacking'.

Because what they really mean is 'life design', but they don't want to just mean repainting the living room. And they're not (genetic) engineers so they can't be doing 'life engineering'.

So 'hacking' it has to be. It's the only word we've got left for 'changing small but important non-aesthetic things'.

@dredmorbius @zensaiyuki

Also, if you say 'I'm interested in design' today, it generally means you are passively consuming the product of a high-end designer. People aren't considered to be able to design things themselves. You need a professional for that!

At least capital-D Design (tm) means very expensive, probably European, home furnishings. Sort of thing.

But if you just care about... rejigging your personal space / processes until it feels good?

Just hacking, I guess.

@natecull The barriers between "consuming" and "making" are frustrating.

Many are self-imposed. But there's definitely a cultural norm that seems to be at play.

In part I blame television, which at the same time it brought some experiences closer, also put them further away. TV doesn't "bring you there", it "puts 'there' in a box". What's "on TV" is *outside your ken*, it's separate-from-reality.

Because the Web is more interactive, I think it helps blur that line, a little?


@dredmorbius @natecull @zensaiyuki I'm really really interested in Dynamicland for that reason: dynamicland.org/

It blurs that line somewhat between consuming and making. I think my favorite tools are like that; Emacs comes to mind.

I'm not sure about the web in general blurring that line though. Parts of it yes; social media has its flaws, but it generally does provide users with plenty of interactivity. (Netflix and news sites are pretty close analogues to TV and newspapers though.)

@dredmorbius @natecull @zensaiyuki I think that might have more to do with the idea of Hot media vs Cold media.


The web is definitely a cold medium tho.

@alexesc As the Web shifts to video and audio, and possibly games (sort of a complex situation), it tends toward Hot.

@natecull @zensaiyuki

@dredmorbius @natecull @zensaiyuki I'm still an optimist about the web and digital media.

When I went on my Linux / privacy veganism phase I begun to think the web and computers are doomed, since only experts and hobbyists would program, and thus, truly participate.

But coming out of that mindset I think creativity is key for digital today...


@dredmorbius @natecull @zensaiyuki


On today's popular apps like whatsapp and Instagram there's the idea of the story, users create photos, draw pictures, share and make derivatives of others work and they do it not for likes, but for pleasure.

Everybody and their dog has a blog / podcast and so on.

The platform monopolies can't do anything but serve the people with tools for creation. Yes, Netflix is a hot medium, but users, we're cold.

@dredmorbius @natecull @zensaiyuki 2/3

I genuinely think users have a powerful creative drive, just look at meme culture. If the predominant platforms are hot, we will melt them with creativity!

In some ways I find the 'normie' internet very liberating, and the linuxy internet very conservative and restricting; while the normies are drawing memes, the privacy freaks are hidden inside the Tor network.

@dredmorbius @alexesc @natecull an explicit goal of twitter has been to tweak it until it becomes a “hot” medium. that is, passively consuming twitter streams that you increasingly have no control over the content of

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