2.28.2010

the paradox of choice...

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less


Almost depressing in its convincing summary of how pleasure is hard to find, fleeting, and crushed by the abundance of choices and options...  but Barry Schwartz distills the principles and offers guidance for managing them, and how we can trick ourselves into satisfaction...if only we can ignore that opportunity-cost accountant in our head!

Every designer should understand hedonic lag and adaption, which is essentially the process by which we adapt to our conveniences - and inconveniences - rendering us both immune to the wonderful comforts of our current experiences, but also masking the surprising inconveniences which we adapt to and blindly accept.

If we can understand and map adaptations in the products that we develop it could help us identify disguised weaknesses, and thereby create a potential road map for a product's future 'pleasure obsolescence' - or map a strategy to unexpected and exciting innovation.

I found the book hard to get through in a continuous read..but snacking on chapters has enlightened me in a lot of ways.

You may not love it....but it will make you better.


2.10.2010

in pursuit of elegance...

In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing


I often start out reading non fiction business books with a skeptical tilt.  I almost fell over when it became apparent that Gelernter's elegance = power + simplicity model was nowhere to be seen in the opening pages of this book...nor the notes and index! 


Despite that disadvantage Matthew May turned me around as he told a number of compelling and diverse stories that explained elegance and its sources in Symmetry, Seduction, Subtraction and Sustainability.  

It is a book about ideas, and some of the challenges we have producing good ones, as we are wired to follow patterns, automatically fill in blanks, and tend toward the satisfactory path, favoring implementation over incubation - what we should do versus what is possible, in Mays' words.

I liked that this book focused on the social and scientific humanity of creating elegance, versus roles of executive, manager, engineer, designer, etc.  Seeking "maximum effect from minimum effort" is a principle that all of these disciplines and perspectives can share. It is a more tangible and meaningful goal than power + simplicity.

If minimalism was captured by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's tenant that less is more - after reading this I prefer thinking of maximalism as more with less.