Inspiration for HCI and usability practitioners

September 24, 2007

Tony Robbins We all need a little inspiration every now and then. Runners have “Just Do It”, guitarists have their Television records, and fitness freaks have pictures of Arnie. What if you’re doing human-computer interaction and usability work?

Earlier this summer, my friend Gerry told me about Antoine de St-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars (Terre des Hommes in French), which has one chapter which is particularly inspiring for people like us. Here’s my favourite quotation:

There should be delivered to us an object as natural as a pebble polished by the waves… he who uses this instrument should be able to forget that it is a machine.

A more well-known quotation from the same chapter shows St-Exupéry’s love of simplicity:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

I was reading Mark Weiser‘s famous Scientific American article on ubiquitous computing a few weeks ago, and noticed that Weiser’s vision sounds pretty similar to the polished pebble:

The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.

So ya know, why not tape those up around the office, and start awakening the giant within?