Thoughts on The Best Interface is No Interface

I can say without a doubt that Golden Krishna’s book, The Best Interface is No Interface, is definitely one of my favorite books thus far. It beautifully articulates the certain frustrations I’ve had with apps and sites in an extremely easy to understand way.

If you’re looking to pick up a book related to product design, you need to read this one. It’s a quick yet poignant read.

As a fair warning, there are many spoilers in this post about the book.

One of the first points Krishna drives home is the app conundrums we’ve got ourselves into, and only slowly starting to move away from. In college,  I wrote freelance for an iPhone app review site, and was amazed by all of the different apps that were out there. Some apps I remember reviewing include a social fitting room advice app, an app for different photo poses, and a whole lot more.

As Krishna puts it, “We moved way past ‘mundane’ social issues and collectively propelled the technology field – where disruption and innovation has a proven track record of changing everyday lives – to giving the world what it really needs: more mobile apps.”

From there, Krishna uses various examples to show how, even considering how advanced technology has become, we are still trading ease of use, fewer steps, and our sanity for a mobile app interface or general GUI. In other words, we love to slap an app on just about everything!

There are three main solutions he describes in how to break out of this habit as well as how to advance how we solve design problems:

  1. Embrace typical processes instead of screens
  2. Leverage computers instead of serving them
  3. Adapt to individuals

I’ve already given enough away, but this book really makes you think hard about how we go about creating solutions. It’s definitely changed the way I look at solutions.

I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

The real power of “the best interface is no interface” is as a call to action. As a philosophy. It’s not about flat design or skeumorphic. Web or mobile. This is about aiming for the best outcome of NoUI. One that doesn’t distract us or try to get us addicted, something that embraces the way we live and aims to make it better quietly and elegantly. For technology to become embedded in the fabric of our lives instead of a distraction away from what really matters.

Back to Basics

About a week ago, Apple released a physical book – “Designed by Apple in California” – to the public for the cool price of $300. The book is dedicated to Steve Jobs and explores 20 years of Apple design.

apple-design-book
Apple’s newest innovation – the book.

What I find fascinating about this book is that Apple – one of the tech giants that really set forth the digital and mobile revolution – decided to publish this manifesto in the form of a heavy book instead of an app or a video.

Though photo printing and coffee books have been around for quite some time now, there’s been a revitalization of print. In fact, it could even be considered a glorification of print.

Artifact Uprising is an example of a company that’s capitalizing on this print renaissance. With their services, you can get your Instagram photos printed individually on matte-finish paper or create a softcover photo book for your coffee table. Photo books from my childhood always seemed a little tacky and cheesy – they were also only one of few ways we could keep and share photos. Now that there are so many platforms on which to share photos – the majority of them being free – we have plenty of choice in the digital space. But there’s something to be said for a beautiful photo book filled with your own curated photos that will live on even when there’s no wifi or outlet.

Like Apple’s new book, seasonal magazines that are en vogue such as Cereal, Kinfolk and Drift are definitely pricier than the average magazine, but they’ve become akin to status symbols. Complete with stunning photos and plenty of delicious white space, these magazines are more art than content at times. If you were worried that print would vanish soon, make no mistake – the sexiness of print is here to stay.

drift
Magazines – the ultimate… accessory?

And on the flipside of that – though we have Evernote, OneNote, Wunderlist and so on and so forth, we simply remember information better if we write it down. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of glamorized analog is RIFLE PAPER Co., a charming stationary brand that sells calendars, notebooks, planners and much more. Sure, I could buy a 50 cent notebook from Staples… but getting to open a cloth-bound, copper-foiled planner every day for the next year sends chills of excitement down my spine.

Then there’s the resurgence of physical “pens” and “pencils” for digital products. FiftyThree sells $30 “pencils,” and Microsoft and Apple have been duking it out in terms of who has the better “pen”.

rifle-paper-co-2017-planners-03a
The prettiest planners you ever did see.

 

Amazon had initially made books more consumable, and still do. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is hard to say. These days, buying a book is as easy as two clicks of a mouse – nothing particularly rejuvenating. In fact, the discovery of the Japanese word tsundoku – the act of stockpiling books never consumed – was a hit among popular media recently. It’s just another testament to how much we take buying books for granted.

Before Amazon, you probably went to Barnes and Nobles and embarked on a mini-scavenger hunt looking for books and stumbling upon others along the way. But the book shopping experience is long from forgotten. There’s been a resurgence of independent bookstores, bringing back dusty bookshelves and bargain book finds.

Amidst all of this rambling, I think what I’m trying to say is that there will still be a place for books, stationary, pencils and erasers in many of our wired hearts. Yes, there are many who are full-blown digital and are completely plugged in with smartwatches, Kindles, iPhones and all. But when the portable battery runs out of juice, will you then lunge for a book? When your computer is malfunctioning during a lecture, will you go through your backpack, searching for your paper and pencil?

Whether you’re drooling over the recent issue of Drift or caught up in an unexpectedly good dollar novel, keep it up. Continue to support print in any form. Maybe even check out a couple of books from your local library if you want to take it a step further – bonus points for using the Dewey Decimal System.

Update:

Other resources I’ve found a couple of days after I posted this…

People are falling in love with a simple productivity system that just uses pen and paper
http://qz.com/701309/people-are-falling-in-love-with-a-simple-productivity-system-that-just-uses-pen-and-paper/ 

Nothing can kill our love of books, not even e-readers
http://qz.com/829076/nothing-can-kill-our-love-of-books-not-even-e-readers/