“I don’t trust books like these”, said James. I was surprised by the blunt comment and replied with a short: “Why not?” “I don’t know… There’s something about the title that turns me off”, James replied. “Maybe it’s the cover in general…”, he tried to elaborate. “It looks cheap right?”, Sarah joined the conversation. “How can a book look cheap”, I replied in astonishment. “I don’t know… it looks… self-published?”, she tried to explain. “Self-published? But it’s a book by O’Reilly…”, I interrupted. “I know, but still…”, Sarah didn’t know what else to say. “I kinda like the cover…”, I remarked, “…it even has a big red heart on it”, I chuckled as I finished my thought, picking up the book, taking a closer look and briefly showing it to James and Sarah.
Lots of tabs = chaos
I come from a small town where traffic jams are rare and public transport unneeded. Need to go to school? Take a short walk. Need to go to the supermarket? Take the car. Life was similar in Germany and Luxembourg. Whenever I needed to get somewhere it took me about 20 minutes. Not more.
I think it was about five books per year. It was mandatory. I would read these books in the first few years but when I think of it now, that wasn’t much of a reading. You know when you read something but your thoughts wander off and even though you read it you actually don’t? I found those books boring and by the end of the school I completely stopped reading them. Our teacher was extremely strict about it and she used to scare the shit out of me. But even that wasn’t a good enough reason to read. I remember thinking to myself: “How can people read books? I rather watch a film or play a video game. At least that’s not a complete waste of time, right?”
“I don’t see it”, I muttered in frustration. “How can you not see it? It’s right here: 12…”, my schoolmate claimed comfortably. “I don’t see a 12, I see a 17…”, I replied in a growing frustration.
The machines of the industrial world finally took over the handicrafts. The typography of this industrial age was no longer handcrafted. Mass production and profit became more important. Quantity mattered more than the quality. The books and printed works in general lost a part of its humanity. The typefaces were not produced by craftsmen anymore. It was the machines printing and tying the books together now. The craftsmen had to let go of their craft and became a cog in the process. An extension of the industrial machine.
The owner of the shop is very friendly. He speaks a dozen of languages but always greets me in English as soon as I walk in (he already knows that I don’t speak either French or German — both used in Luxembourg). He offered to shake my hand as he always does and asked how I was doing. I replied with my usual: “I’m OK”, and smiled. At this moment he noticed my book. He must have read the title because he asked me what is it that I do.
We were invited to this event because Wondermags is a Luxembourgish startup and we put a lot of effort in user experience. I must admit, it feels good to have such reputation. Anyway, I was asked to present our approach to creating products that users love. Here’s what I presented.
I truly believe in and appreciate simplicity. I like simple tools that allow customisation for power users. On a Windows PC, Notepad++ somehow provided that. To be honest, I wasn’t even a power user back then, so customisation wasn’t a priority. I just needed a very simple text editor.
We designers have always had a problem of handing over creative control to the general population — the basic users. There are two reasons for this. The first is obvious: We are the ones who are supposed to know the principles of design and usability. Some of us were born with this feeling of what feels and looks right, while other designers have learned it — at least good designers eventually have.