Step on to any busy train and look around you, and you’ll notice something. The vast majority of the faces around you will be staring into their palm at a tiny screen. From these micro computers, we can instantly broadcast messages to hundreds of thousands of people all across the planet. We can see a loved one’s face and hear their voice from half a world away. We can photograph moments and immediately share them. We can film videos, watch movies, play games, make plans, and talk our mouths off. But the closer we are to the wider world, the more blind we become to our immediate surroundings.
<!– more –>I spent a week without the use of my mobile phone. It was a strange, but liberating few days. At first, I found myself instinctively fishing into my pocket to browse twitter or check my emails - I was starting to realize just how much I used this miniature computer.
Once I’d gotten into the swing of things, I found myself noticing all the small things in my every day commute. The Helvetica all over the train stations. The vast and open design of Manchester Piccadilly Station. Silly, little, unimportant things: but things that go unnoticed every day. Things that someone has thought about; designed. A part of me thinks that whoever made these decisions couldn’t help but be hurt by the ignorance of these smartphone wielding commuters.
But maybe that’s not the point. Design is, after all, communication. Great design is invisible. Great design stands back, and lets the content speak for itself - in this case, it lets the commuter get on with their day. These are things we’ve learned. But that almost-guilty feeling is still there - so I make sure I do what I can to take notice. I think it will make me a better designer.
This all reminds me a little about something extraordinary that happened to Frank Chimero - he saw a horse in the Apple Store. And while this horse was in the store, Frank was surrounded by people who were - or who appeared to be - far to engrossed in the shiny goods around them to even acknowledge the bizarre circumstance they would otherwise have found themselves in.
When it comes down to it, I see a simple, refreshing, and somewhat slightly worrying truth; design for the screen is not built to last. Unlike a building, or a printed book, design for screen is subject to change. It’s consumer-friendly to the point where the average user simply doesn’t care, and doesn’t notice the choices behind everything that makes a design great. It’s disposable. And we should keep that in the forefront of our minds.