I’m a sucker for clean, controlled interfaces.

I think I was born in the exact era where I was raised alongside a culture of ever-improving, clean user experiences. It feels rewarding and satisfying, especially when open-ended, to capitalize on the benefits of constraints and move, at your own leisure, from A to B along a well-designed path.

However I do notice that when I convert a digital workflow to something more analog, my ability to execute and think concretely and deliberately improves significantly. Most recently this has been shifting my workout tracking from a spreadsheet to a small Kolo notebook – the act of organizing my sets and weights on paper feels like I can focus strictly on the reps at hand rather than overthinking how to optimize my workout (I still enter my final stats into a spreadsheet that calculates the rate of increase/decrease based on performance, which proves the benefit of a hybrid; a middle ground).

I think there’s a risk with the cleanness of interfaces and the controlled, comfortable glow of well-defined user journeys that makes them feel correct, and right, and controlled, when at times they overlay a distorting lens over underlying truths and gently (and skillfully! scientifically!) guide that intent down a path of someone else’s making. That’s the danger of the well-designed interface; it’s not meant to amplify your intentions; they’re often designed to re-channel your energy towards a predetermined outcome.

I think this is all well-known and articulated better elsewhere, but I also think that writing and mapping such things through my own experience can be a useful exercise in understanding what is meant when others talk about it. Especially since it’s one of the most intractable and prominent problems of this time.

My takeaway is that at some point you need to live and work with what’s in front of you, trust your own judgement, and not overcomplicate things since you give up your discretion to someone else’s designs, and that that’s really really hard. But it frees up your mind and grounds you back to a reality that’s increasingly existing under layers and layers of abstraction.

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