Recently I joined some friends on Iterate to talk about the future of design. I’ve done the show a few times, but my inclusion on this episode is most likely attributable to the piece I wrote for Macworld last month. My piece—and the considered response from John Gruber—drew a lot of attention to an ongoing conversation about the best way to design digital things for human interaction.
In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of interesting and thoughtful contributions to the conversation. Marc Edwards didn’t entirely agree with me and John (though Marc and I talked privately and seem to more or less line up on the major points). Sebastian de With chimed in. And of course Louie Mantia (my foil on the latest Iterate) had something to say on the matter. That’s fantastic. This isn’t a right-or-wrong discussion, and it’s fun to see so many talented people sharing their thoughts.
Not everyone appreciates the conversation: I’ve also seen a lot of passive-aggressive tweets and blog posts from designers about how tired they are of the topic. And that’s what I don’t get.
To frame this as an argument over textures is short-sighted; what we’re really talking about is how to best express ideas using technology. Like anything with design, there are a lot of things to consider and no single solution to every problem. Collecting data and opinions and watching trends is part of the fun. It’s how we learn. If you design things for a living, any ongoing conversation about the future of how to design things should be exciting to you.
This is a rare moment in any industry, and we should be savoring our opportunity to make such a significant impact. Wherever you sit on the issue, you should be passionate, you should have strong opinions, and you should want to participate—or at least follow along and consider the arguments. Because if you don’t care, why are you doing this job? If a conversation about design is enough to make you complain, is this even a career you enjoy?
Our industry is very young, and we still have a lot to learn. Those of us who love our work rely on these exchanges to keep us sharp. Settling in on a single visual style for everything is a terrible idea for the same reasons Tim Burton shouldn’t direct every movie. This process of exploration helps us keep it all fresh and new.
At the very least, don’t be condescending to the people who do care.