Saturday, October 7

trying too hard

food is such a perfect metaphor for usability, to me. the head of lettuce you are hacking into pieces must end up in bits that are big enough to stab with a fork and small enough to fit in your mouth. the cobbler should not be too hot to eat.

easy like waterslides. with seasoned croutons and glazed almonds for decoration.

waterslides aren't exactly pretty things. they have too much functionality. restraints like it has to be watertight and it can't be collapsing are just way more important than making it look perfectly striking against the blue summer sky.

why does function have to always be so separate from form and beauty? it never is with food. food is an inescapably usable thing, usually, yet we are always saying 'that looks so good.' whether it's a plain stalk of celery or a an elaborately molded and garnished chocolate torte. one bit of the film kate & leopold, leopold says that
without the culinary arts the crudeness of reality would be unbearable.
unbearable? well, art exists for some rather difficult-to-explain reason. i don't know if i could bear my life if i couldn't sketch during boring meetings. if life were devoid of beauty... yikes. then again, human beings have this knack of getting used to life even under the most horrifying conditions. we could bear artlessness. but the lack thereof would leave us empty, just like that eve 6 song.

the reason i have struggled a little with this whole usability concept is rooted in the seemingly inherent conflict between function and style. i remember looking for the first time at those connecting tunnel bits that you walk through to get from the terminal to the plane and lamenting their complete lack of style. why couldn't they at least paint them a nice color? did they have to be so blocky and dirty and... why?

but functional things don't always have to be ugly. look at spoons. i've never seen an ugly spoon, have you? wait... on second thought, there are probably a lot of overly decorative fat weird spoons that aren't quite my style of beauty... but at least someone tried, right?

which brings me to the eye of the beholder. maybe joe looks at those funky green plastic waterslides, with their big bolts and scaffolding-esque legs, and he thinks they look perfectly striking against the blue summer sky. maybe the sight of your elaborately molded and garnished chocolate torte makes lisa sick to her stomach. context and individuality do make a big difference.

and you can never please everyone all at once. luckily this means that it's pretty hard to displease everyone all at once too.

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