Intuition and Intimacy in Design


In an old, but still relevant, article from Wired, Brian Eno talks about the value of designing with limited options:

Designers struggle endlessly with a problem that is almost nonexistent for users: “How do we pack the maximum number of options into the minimum space and price?” In my experience, the instruments and tools that endure (because they are loved by their users) have limited options.

He further elaborates, explaining our desire for intimacy with our tools:

With tools, we crave intimacy. This appetite for emotional resonance explains why users - when given a choice - prefer deep rapport over endless options. You can’t have a relationship with a device whose limits are unknown to you, because without limits it keeps becoming something else.

It’s not a revolutionary concept, designing and building only what is necessary, but it’s a good one to keep in mind. With tools, it’s often better to be the master of few than the jack of all trades.