The Airsource Blog

Joel Spolsky in Boston

The subtitle for this article should probably be "Why the iPhone is Swallowable". I'm here at the Software Development Best Practices expo in Boston. Joel Spolsky introduced us all, just a moment ago, to a new concept in design - how swallowable a device is. Admittedly he applied this to the notion of an iPod - and the new series of Macbooks - which having no seams look like they should be easily swallowable, but a design principle should be applicable across the board, right?

On a more serious note, Joel discussed a couple of interesting theories about how to make a great product, be it software or anything else. He started by talking about Control/Helplessness with obvious applicability to the Microsoft/Apple products, followed by a long section on Aesthetics. His point was that while there may be no sensible business rationale to creating an entire new manufacturing process for the Macbook just to lose a seam or two, we don't let software engineers do design. Engineers think that artists can just paint over all their ugliness, whereas in reality the engineering decisions need to be shaped and guided by the overall design vision.

The second theory was about designing with a Culture Code viewpoint. SUVs are perceived as safe, despite the converse beng true, because they are soft (off-road suspension), with big armchairs inside instead of racing Recaro seats, and because the seating position is high up. Finally, and this was the crucial point, they have plenty of cupholders, allowing the driver to get a warm milky drink in a soft comfortable environment - in other words (according to Joel), selling the driver on a breast-feeding type experience. And, of course, breast-feeding equals a safe, comfortable environment.

I am now waiting for the first iPod-clone manufacturer to misunderstand the message and produce an something shaped like a breast.