So does that new technology mean I don’t have a purpose anymore?


I can’t see into the future, but…

I’m confident our voices will become the dominant, primary mode to interface with machines. That is, in the consumer context, to quickly access relevant, useful information. Watching my 8 year old cousin ask a tablet is there going to be a thunderstorm tonight?” and immediately getting an answer, crushes any doubt that this technology will prove itself. 

But how does this affect me?! Will this move the centre of gravity away from designers and back into the able hands of the engineers (booming thunder and evil laugh)? No, not necessarily.

The definition of digital design is painfully incomplete. The way designers market themselves and their services is even more opaque. Yeah, transparency is scary, especially for creatives, and it’s much easier to throw a smoke bomb than to explain or question yourself.

But, however painful, you have to define what your mission is. The point of this exercise is to make sure your course is always correct. At worst, you can hold on and continually weather the storm, catching up with trends and methods as they fly past. At best you see over the waves and change direction. Basically just stuff like: Why are a designer? What are you are helping fix? What can you do that others can’t? Why are you a designer (or lumberjack, or pastry chef)? If you don’t know what you’re doing, how will you ever achieve x? 

But within the design industry especially, it’s very difficult to hear above the din of twitter and medium, and find true north for yourself (last nautical analogy). For me, this essay is something that I’d refer to, to help recalibrate.

The time bar graph was invented about 250 years ago. The map and the written sentence are both about 5000 years old. They are beautiful, venerable forms of visual communication. The bugs have been worked out. They are universally, intuitively understood.

The pulldown menu, the checkbox, and the bureaucracy-inspired text entry form were invented 25 years ago, desperation devices to counter inadequate technology. They were created for a world that no longer exists.

Twenty-five years from now, no one will be clicking on drop-down menus, but everyone will still be pointing at maps and correcting each others’ sentences. It’s fundamental. Good information software reflects how humans, not computers, deal with information.” - Bret Victor

There’s a reason I search out opinions like this. I agree with them, and it confirms my bias of the importance of the visual communication’ of information. (That doesn’t mean I’m correct, or he’s correct).

Voice as an interface doesn’t kill interface design, because it doesn’t kill information. But it will permanently change it. And that’s something I have to think about.

July 19, 2014