This is a really interesting interview, because it shows Rams reflecting on what comes after good design principles are applied to products, architecture or otherwise visual mediums.
We need new structures for our behaviors, and that is design. We have enough things. We can improve some things, but it’s not spectacular. To improve a television or a computer, to make it more self explanatory, to make it more usable, it’s always a very important thing, but it’s not a spectacular thing.
The unspectacular things are the important things, especially in the future.
The music that was added throughout this video is an example of poor design, which is ironic given the context.
I’ve been saying this ever since the company I work for moved to remote work during the pandemic. Thankfully, for me, it decided to stay that way when many other companies shifted back to the office.
Imagine you walk up to someone to have a conversation and you hand them a small rectangular mirror and say, “Would you mind holding this so I can study my every facial expression as we talk?” That’s pretty much what the standard settings on most team collaboration or video chat services are creating. I wish the default setting could be set to “hide self-view”, but in the platforms I’ve used, it is something you have to toggle on a per call/meeting basis. Microsoft Teams gives you the ability to do a quick “self check” before joining a call, which has value, but hiding the self-view once you are in the meeting would be a welcome default.
I turn the self view off not because I’m overly self-conscious about my appearance (though I recognize this is something that makes it even more stressful for many people), but because I can’t help but get distracted by my dog in the background or looking to see what item I may have left on the table behind me. Sometimes, I become focused on my facial expressions. No matter the distraction, these are all things that can be avoided by disabling the self-view and focusing the attention on the other people, as you would in an in-person conversation.
One point I’d never considered:
Before mirrors were invented, the earliest type of “mirror” used was nature — reflections in ponds, lakes and rivers when waters were calm enough to reveal a flat surface.
Isn’t it ironic that we seek out these same locations for their serene peacefulness, likely never using them as a selfie-eval tool in modern times.
I’m familiar with Vitsœ from the documentary film Rams. I knew that Dieter Rams had worked with Vitsœ for many years and his fingerprints can be seen on the company’s website and products to this day. I learned a lot more about the company from this article and the current managing director, Mark Adams, has a few insightful quotes throughout it.
Focus on better, not on newer. Why are we obsessed with the new? We should be obsessed with better. That is what drives us at Vitsœ. After all, it is the way that the natural world operates: constantly improving, not launching new species.
This seems so logical, yet almost none of the companies making the products we all hold in high regard foster this ideal.
The other quote I highlighted was about his wardrobe:
My wardrobe is a ruthless kit of parts. Everything goes with everything. Much of it lasts 20+ years. It is repaired. Shoes from Northampton. Socks from Leicester. Shirts from the US. Polo-necks from Derbyshire. Better, not newer.
I look forward to the day that I can say this about my own wardrobe.
Simon Harris, writing about his love for audiobooks and the reasons he believes they can hone a skill vs. merely informing or entertaining.
Listening is a skill. One you should take seriously and one that might have atrophied in recent times. I can’t prove this change, though I think we can infer it a little from changes in media — for instance movie scenes, cuts, and dialogue have all been shortened over the decades. Generally the pacing of nearly all media has quickened. Possibly the delivery of “more, faster” is the result of a too-great respect for novelty as an artistic flourish. I think these changes, and maybe others I can’t see, affect how people choose to make conversation in their daily lives, and make it shorter and faster too.
I agree with these points. I’m often saddened by the short duration of great songs today. Efficiency has infected conversation. Many folks would rather have several short burst message threads vs. one long-form meaningful conversation either verbally or in written form with a single person.
And you can practice this lengthening by listening to audiobooks.
I never thought of it as the practice of listening.
Keeping the thread of an uninterrupted narrative, holding your concentration and attention for it against all the other forces, this is a muscle worth stretching. You might find that over time you get better at it, you absorb much more, and it will make you a better listener elsewhere, too.
Having recently written about wanting to become a better listener, this resonates.
If you try to listen to them on 1.5x speed you are absolutely going the wrong way.
Guilty as charged… I may try 1x speed, unless the narrator is unusually slow paced.
I was looking over the Make Something Wonderful book from the Steve Jobs Archive. I don’t yet (and may never) have a copy of the physcial edition, but they did such a great job on the website version. I’d heard about it on several podcasts when the book was first released.
What struck me while on the site was what a great logo the Steve Jobs Archive has.
It’s simple, yet it has complexity that the Apple logo lacks. It’s perfect for the use and I wish there was more about it’s creation. I would venture a guess that Jony Ive had a hand in its creation, but I can’t find any reference to it online.
If anyone knows more about this logo’s creation, reach out with a link or to share, please.
The awesome Workspaces newsletter featured craftsman Sean Woolsey’s workspace. I have been subscribed to Workspaces for a long time, but this workspace floored me in the best way. I was studying the images, wishing I could be standing in this space. I like seeing that someone is making their tech investments as long lasting as Sean. He’s using an Apple Cinema display and the Apple Magic Keyboard with the AA battery tube (both products I’ve owned).
There are so many lovely touches, but my favorite has to be this.
I also noticed that Sean’s pen looks like an adaptation on a brass nail setter. The etched grip on a nail setting makes for the perfect texture for a pen grip. The irony that my last linkpost was on the topic of driving the nail to the perfect depth in our life endeavors.
That inspiration wall is amazing. What an amazing space.
Cole Schafer, writing in his newsletter, The Process:
We should create art in much the same way that a master handyman drives home a nail. Once we’ve hammered in the nail, we should stop hammering as not to bruise the wood. Once we’ve created whatever it is we originally sought out to create, we should lift the pen from the paper, the brush from the canvas or the fingers from the strings and and have the courage to say, “I’m done”.
This is good advice with a great analogy.
Compared to many, I likely live in a dumb home vs. a smart home. That’s not to say that we don’t have modern tech prodcuts in our home. We have an Amazon Echo in the kitchen and in the kids’ rooms. We have a couple of HomePods in various rooms for music and interaction with Siri. We have Apple TV devices and a home security system. We have a smart thermostat that will sense when people are home and adjust things to help save energy. Our garage door opener is connected to HomeKit. We have a doorbell camera and a couple of outdoor cameras that are as well. We have a WiFi mesh network.
The reason I say that we live in a dumb home is that I’ve purposely avoided smart home equipment related to things like lights, light swtiches, home applicances, door locks and window shades/blinds. It isn’t that I don’t see the convenience or geeky angle of how lights turning on and off when you enter or leave spaces or saying a command and things magically happening all around the house at once. I’ve avoided them because they strike me as the type of home tech we’ve been falsely conditioned to think will reduce friction in our lives. I want a purely mechanical door lock that I don’t have to consider if it needs new batteries. I want an oven, refridgerator, washer and dryer that don’t need firmware updates and just consistently do the thing they were made to do.
When I hear people discussing their smart home equipment, it is mostly frustrations with inconsistent performance or incompatibility that is driving more cost, more time and more tweaking. Smart home tech creates more maintenance and tinkering for things that aren’t really that much of an inconvenience to begin with. I don’t find it inconvenient to flip a light swtich when I enter or leave a room. I don’t regret that my coffee kettle can’t alert my phone when it reaches the optimal temperature for brewing a cup. I don’t think that a door not unlocking as I reach for the knob as friction to my entry.
This opinion is mine and I don’t fault others for having a different view or feeling on these things. I just realized that my intentional aversion to many products in the smart home category is ironic given that I don’t avoid modern technology, generally speaking. I think it is an interesting connection point between concepts like “slow” apps or single-threaded thinking.
I’ve used a variety of podcast apps over the years, each for a long stretch of time. Pocket Casts was my app of choice on Android and that carried over when I moved to iOS. I tried Overcast, and while I know most folks in the circle of indie app developers and podcasters alike love it, it just wasn’t for me. I moved from Pocket Casts to Castro and used it for several years. Now I’m using Apple Podcasts, which surprises me a bit.
Late last year I decided I’d try to eliminate some yearly app subscription costs by simply trying the default or Apple native option. So many of Apple’s apps have matured and evolved, so I didn’t want to assume that Podcasts (the app) was underpowered for a pretty serious podcasts consumer like myself. I knew I’d be leaving some “pro” features on the table. Two of those were trimming silence and voice boosting. Another was Castro’s sideload ability. Yet another was the ability to create a shareable clip of a moment from the podcast. Castro did all these things very well, but other than trim silence and voice boost (which I had on as defaults for all podcasts), I didn’t find myself actually using the other cool features very often at all. Castro also had a cool feature that I did use semi-frequently that allowed you to share a YouTube video to it and it would sideload the audio of that podcast with metadata preserved. I do actually miss this feature a bit, but there’s workarounds using my read-later app of choice, Matter.
I hadn’t realized at almost the same time I started experimenting with Apple Podcasts, Castro began having stability issues and there were rumors that the app was going away completely. In late January, we learned that where there was smoke, there was fire and Castro was sold. I think it is great that the app will live on, but I would prefer to not be on the possible rollercoaster of what the new buyer may decide to do with it.
So, while it may not have every bell and whistle, I can say that Apple Podcasts is pretty solid. I’ve been using it for over 3 months now and it’s been fine. The UI is eerily consistent with Apple Music. The playback speed controls are fine. The missing trim silence is not a big deal. The Apple Watch app and integration is more solid than any other app I’ve used. The syncing with other devices is great. Being able to listen on my television through Apple TV is nice. The Homepod playback works really well. I’ve read that transcriptions of podcasts is coming soon in the app, which is nice. I hope it has the ability to share a specific section of a podcast like the Music app does with the lyrics highlighting and sharing.
My gripes with the app are few. I don’t like that if I listen to a single episode of a podcast, the app begins suggesting new episodes of that podcast to me for listening as they come out. If I wanted to listen to more than the episode I selected, I would have downloaded more episodes or subscribed/followed the show itself. I wish that was something I could toggle off. The only other annoyance I can think of is that if I’m listening to an episode and then start listening to another, the one I left doesn’t automatically fall to next in my queue (or anywhere in my queue at all) to resume afterwards. From what I can tell, those just fall into the ether and I have to go back hunting for them to add them back to my queue manually.
So that’s it. I’m what I would consider a podcast superuser and yet I’m totally content to use the app that ships with the OS across the Apple ecosystem. If you would have asked me much further back than late last year, I would never have imagined that I’d be content consuming content this way, but experiments are often illuminating.
I’ve expressed before how alluring a new app or beta testing experience can be. I’ve gotten better at this, but there’s just something about kicking the tires on a new app that tickles some part of my brain.
I saw that the new Superlist app is out and there was a nice write up over at The Verge about it. I had completely forgotten that the team behind Wunderlist was making a new to-do app. I used to use Wunderlist many years ago before it was acquired by Microsoft and it was one of my favorite to-do apps. Superlist looks pretty great, but I uninstalled it about 10 minutes after downloading it.
I realized I was about to repeat the same mistake I’ve made over and over again. I was about to evaluate another to-do app. I was about to dream about how much more productive it would make some aspect of my life. I envisioned how much more writing I would do by having things organized in a new system. I thought about how I’d structure the lists and how Superlist would boost my productivity. I did all that within 10 minutes, and then I remembered all the time I was going to invest in learning Superlist and integrating my tasks into it could be spent writing. So… I long-pressed the beautiful app icon and tapped Uninstall.
I think it’s a beautiful app and because it’s made by some of the same team behind Wunderlist, I’m confident it will make some people more productive. I’m just not one of those people, because I’m one of those people. Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step. This time, I caught it early and wrote this post instead of going down the dark alley of productivity porn.