Design Is Just Asking “How Do I Maximize Pleasure?”

For a long time, the electronics and computer industry asked “How do I make this work?”  This is understandable.  In any nascent industry, getting something that works out the door is priority number one.  But, even after the functionality hurdle was cleared, nobody asked “How do I maximize pleasure?”  They asked things like “How do I make this faster?” or “How do I make this cheaper?”  If you look at the tech giants, even in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, many of their products focused on maximizing measurable output.  Intel & AMD battled over clock speeds, Canon & Nikon battled over megapixel count, ISPs competed solely on connection speeds and price, etc. etc.  As these improvements were going on though, most technology remained a real bitch to use if you didn’t grow up with it.

As processing power more or less caught up with the tasks we threw at it, as notebooks and handhelds became powerful enough to do basic office tasks and cameraphones captured images good enough to make 4×6 prints, we saw a shift.  Good design became the next goal.  When designing the iPhone, Apple didn’t ask “How do we make this as fast and cheap as possible?”, they asked “How do we make this the most pleasurable experience for the user?”  Sleek and solid case, nice screen, intuitive OS, good internet interface, decent battery life, and a closed universe so the user can’t fuck it up.  They didn’t go the early Windows phone route: lets make it as powerful as possible so you can do everything with this brick!  They maximized pleasure, which required them not to maximize functionality.

But in other areas, maximizing functionality is exactly what will maximize pleasure.  Take a look at the following videos.  Both feature tiny living spaces.  The first was designed to not just to be tiny, but to be as functional and pleasurable as possible.  The second was just designed to be tiny.  Tell me there’s not a world of difference in how each owner describes their living space.  The first seems excited.  The second seems like she’s trying to convince herself her life doesn’t suck.


Instead of simply stopping after you can affirmatively answer the “does this work?” question, ask “Is this as pleasurable to use as it can be?”

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