An Argument For Building Attractive Things

Here’s a rule of thumb that applied to both people and design experiences:

The more attractive something (or someone) is, the more we’re willing to tolerate its flaws.

When something is beautiful, we’ll work with it just a bit more, despite its inadequacies. We do this because we want to be associated with beautiful things. We want to build relationships with beautiful things (same for beautiful people). We want to evangelize them. We want to become a part of them.

When one becomes obsessed with a beautiful object, it isn’t because we want that object to come into our own personal world. It’s in fact the reverse. We want to enter its world. Of course, that thing that we found to be so beautiful at first glance may actually have some awful flaws. Really expensive yet excruciatingly uncomfortable shoes come to mind. We want it to work out so badly.

Here is my theory in a beautifully elegant visual form (also known as “data visualization.”):


So what’s the moral of this blog post? When you’re building stuff, make it usable but also make it attractive. I mean, we should all be aiming for both, but not everything can be Brad Pitt.

Praying To The Wrong God

Let’s go back to the year 2000 for a few minutes.

The music industry is in turmoil due to an amalgamation of factors:

  • The Internet has arrived. Distribution of just about anything that can exist in digital form will change forever. Your big box retailer of compact discs instantly looks like a relic.
  • People have found ways to compress audio into a manageable size without sacrificing very much in audio quality. Not only has the distribution piping been laid down, but the packages are light and easy to transport.
  • Napster and its brethren come into existence. Decentralized peer-to-peer farmer’s markets crop up everywhere, compounding the nightmare for the music industry.

The music industry does what any industry would do when their precious commodity – in this case music – is suddenly as available as paper towels at your local YMCA restroom. It’s a scary place to find yourself. The natural reaction is to wrap your arms around that content and hold on for dear life. After all, it is your bread and butter.

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Addicted To Nothing

We are addicted to nothing. Wait, let me rephrase that: we’re addicted to being addicted. No, that’s not really it. We’re addicted to “the next thing.” Or more accurately, the “next bunch of things.” What those things are is irrelevant. We actually don’t care about their substance. We just care that they are:

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TBUZZ + Readability

Since I started using TBUZZ (all-caps required), I’ve gotten into the habit of a nice one-two punch with Readability. First use Readability to get rid of all the bullshit, then invite in people who are talking about what I’m reading. It’s sort of like peanut butter and chocolate, except with technology:


4 Things Designers & Marketers Can Learn From the Slap Chop Website (Yes, The Slap Chop Website)

We’ve all had restless late nights where we can’t sleep only to be greeted with the Slap Chop guy Vince. He’s chopping food and rambling on with unbridled enthusiasm. Yes he’s a little ridiculous and pretty cheesy. And yes, he’s been remixed. Hey, mock all you want. The original TV ad has been viewed nearly 400,000 times on Youtube. The remix has been viewed nearly two million times! How many times have your videos been viewed?

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Inventing The Semantic Web…Again

Over at Semantic Universe, they’ve published my article on inventing the semantic web again. The basic premise is that you can come up with a brilliant invention in the lab, but if the masses don’t connect to it (especially if it requires the masses to be fully realized) it’s really not much of an invention.

Few would doubt that the Semantic Web isn’t the “right thing.” The only thing that remains is to figure out how exactly to bring it into the context of people’s individual goals and needs. Until then, it’ll continue to be relegated to academic gymnastics.

HTML Prototyping With Polypage

Polypage was designed to ease the process of showing multiple page states in html mock-ups. By adding simply adding class names to a document you can imply state and conditional view logic.” Translation: Niiiice.

Flying Garbage

Let’s make a case for good ol’ paper for a second. I don’t think anyone would dare throw garbage at you to make a point while you were reading a newspaper. Well, the Web I suppose is a different story.

If you visit the NY Times today, there’s a good chance you’ll see…umm…garbage fly across your screen. Here’s a snap:


Desperate times I suppose.

Big Media’s Big Head Start

A common theme that tech pundits enjoy ruminating over is the mass democratization of media by way of the Internet. The line goes something like this:

Gone are the days of an extreme concentration of power to mass communicate. Large television networks are giving way to an endless number of video “channels” on the Web. Newspaper journalism is engulfed by a wave of newly-enabled publishers that can reach anyone and as often as they like. Distribution channels around music and movies seem antiquated in this new era of immediate-gratification-entertainment delivery.

In other words, the handful of megaphones that a lucky few had (and held onto with sweaty palms) are drowned out. Everybody’s got a megaphone now. I don’t need to be published. I just publish. I don’t need to be signed to my record label. I just put my music out. It’s all one big hyper-specialized sea of endless “channels.” The restrictions are gone. May the best content win.

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“I Wanted To Make Posters”

Jacek Utko talks about how he infused art design into the newspapers he worked on and saw both critical acclaim and a marked increase in circulation. In essence, he elevated the newspaper from a generic source of news to an overall experience that marries content and design. It’s an inspiring six minutes:

I’m not sure if this translates into “design will save the newspapers” but Jacek is on the right track: he’s blowing out the definition of “newspaper” as we understand it today. He’s bringing something else to the table. It’s no longer only about “well, the news isn’t timely anymore because I have the Internet.” It isn’t only about content anymore in Jacek’s world.