Eno, Brian. “The Revenge of the Intuitive.”
Wired January 1999
The trouble begins with a design philosophy that equates “more options” with “greater freedom.” 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.
Intuitive actions confine the detail work to a dedicated part of the brain, leaving the rest of one’s mind free to respond with attention and sensitivity to the changing texture of the moment. 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.
Indeed, familiarity breeds content. When you use familiar tools, you draw upon a long cultural conversation—a whole shared history of usage—as your backdrop, as the canvas to juxtapose your work. The deeper and more widely shared the conversation, the more subtle its inflections can be.