25 November 2009

Gabe's Axiom

This is a reprint from my own blog, but I think it's applicable to the audience here.

I devised a new platitude that I’ve dubbed Gabe’s Axiom:

Engineers make stuff work. Designers make stuff useful.

I did so in response to my overall experience as an engineer to date. This thought coalesced recently while reading the book The Design of Everyday Things. Engineers love making and using gizmos and gadgetry and they love figuring out how to use a new widget. Therefore they find it frustrating when Joe user isn’t as passionate about learning all 15 ways to shut down a Windows based computer. I’ve often seen this frustration manifest as rebuke when a layman has trouble using equipment in the shared workspace (office copier, coffee pot). I’m guilty of it myself. I’d posit that a great many engineers don’t design with elegance or ease of use in mind. Making stuff work is their MO. However, the gizmos that are most useful are ones that are intuitive. It’s not the users fault if a gadgets operation isn’t readily apparent. True engineering involves synthesis and distillation with an eye toward elegance, not tech savvy alone. It’s the simplicity on the other side of complexity. It’s more challenging, but definitely more fun. After all, if it isn’t useful then what’s the point?

1 comment:

David said...

Sweet. The only change I might suggest is that the overlap portion appears too large. Then again, I'm neither an engineer or a designer.