Where do we go now?
The new digital, and the paradoxical design of software
Good Morning! ☀️
The leave of absence has been progressing wonderfully. I’ve been able to catch up with so many people I haven’t seen for years. It’s been amazing to hear about others lives and their stories, which is something I had missed over the last couple years. Anthropology of friends!
This morning I’m lucky enough to be writing this in the sun at a cafe in Amsterdam before I head to the US tomorrow for some business meetings.
My time is ticking, so I’m working to make the most of it.
⏱️ ⏱️ ⏱️
In the last weeks, I’ve been thinking more about how the next decade may look for the internet, being in the digital space, and strategies for companies who want to continue to move into the digital space (hint, this should be everyone).
However, these topics aren’t always as straight forward as companies think, which can many times still revolve around “We need an app”. I’ve spent time this last week speaking to the founder of Skilled Creative, a company who work in the Voice UI space. We were amazed how few companies are investing into exploration in this space despite being one of the fastest growing and adopted technologies.
To summarise the conversation, it came down to this…
Companies clearly need to invest in experience based teams within R&D that are working on things the company currently isn’t, but maybe should.
So from that, for this week, I have two (2) quick areas of focus to give some tidbits to think about and explore during your week.
First, I compiled a quick primer of ten (10) great articles on what the future of the internet, digital, work, and content creation look like.
This is far beyond voice or any singular technology, and gives a wide ranging view of the cone of plausible futures. These articles show even more why key skills in the next decade will center around analytical thinking, adaptive learning, critical thinking, and more - not simply tools or hard skills, but personal agility.
The distributed Web 3.0 / crypto internet from Not Boring
New organisations and DAO’s from Not Boring
How remote work is here to stay, also from Charlie Warzel
Second, I’ve had some great conversations with the Chief of Staff over at Blloc, a company dedicated to helping you bring focus and clarity to tasks on your phone. In their words “Less distraction. More mindfulness.”
I love their design and their work to drive focus through home screen and widgets on Android. As my mobile phone has only increased in its importance, I wish operating systems would do more in terms of making the home and lock screen better productivity and focus engines.
I should be clear, the idea of “focus in a world of growing chaos” is not new. There are always companies and products claiming to help you focus. I was recently shown Superhuman as a new clean email client. I’ve also always loved IA Writer. And now I’ll wait for new messaging clients that will help you focus your new messaging inboxes, as this is the new email.
As we all know, we’re always drowning in information, and every week we have a new app to streamline and simplify our life.
However in my conversation with my friend at Blloc, we touched upon a paradoxical problem for software, companies, and designers, which hits Blloc’s fundamental mission.
The difficulty, or perhaps irony, for Blloc, and software that helps you focus, is that software by its nature survives on adding features. the antithesis of why companies that strive to deliver focus are created.
It's a philosophical struggle! And the struggle is real!
If no one has a rule around this paradoxical situaiton, I’m going to create one. The amount of time any piece of software exists is inversely proportional the amount of focus it can provide you! Now I need a catchy name!
As consumers we have been driven to believe more is almost always better. We buy new software to focus, only to demand new features, which often diversifies functionality and drives a lack of focus.
I don’t have a way to change this, but I wonder if we think of software in new ways, what could be achievable. For example, subscription software that owns a promise of never having more than 10 features and must remove one feature when they add another. Always flexibly refining. Much like we only have a set amount of hours in a day, maybe we can think of creating experience that have a set number of features.
Or software that on the screen maintains a limited feature set, but integrates into other software around you (such as your car) or using voice and other interfaces, to drive behavioural change in some way across your life, and not on an individual device.
This type of thinking - broad, strategic, philosophical and challenging the systems we have in place, still forms the foundation of how I see design.
If I recall my article on What it means to be a designer I wrote something I still strongly believe…
It’s easy to accept what is around us, or get swept up on summarising complexities to Tweets, but as designers, it should be engrained that we dig deeper, view nuance, change viewpoints, and uncover those parts other people miss - the hidden parts of people, places, objects, and experiences.
I’m consistently and constantly exasperated by what the term “Designer” has come to mean. Someone who simply thinks in digital screens. Someone who thinks in terms of predefined languages of Material Design, iOS components, and Fluent.
True design will always be about understanding behaviour, making purposeful decisions, and making products that improve the human (world) condition.
Rant over! The future is on its way!
Wrapping up, I’ll be on the road in October. For those who want to connect, reach out if I’m in your city ✈️
Berlin: October 13-17
Lisbon: October 28 - November 1
Thank you for reading and exploring topics with me!
Until next time!