Wednesday, December 26, 2007

NONOBJECT Design Fiction Book

NONOBJECT Design Fiction Book

Ever since I first bought my copy of A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech, I have been very keen on learning more, not just about being more creative, but also about the process of creativity itself. It's sort of a Zen thing, where you strive for enlightenment or the creative state, but you can only achieve it by not thinking about it.

You can't be creative by scheduling yourself a task to be creative. You have to, as von Oech puts it, challenge your day-to-day, minute-by-minute thinking to identify and surpass various "mental locks" that we've learned in our lives to adapt to test-centered schools, policy-driven companies and routine-based lives.

This author/designer in the NONObject book has really done a great "what-if" exercise in his improbable objects. Spoons made of hundred miniature spoons, portable phones with gaps for buttons, or with no display, and all sorts of other fantastical objects are meant to challenge your assumptions about design.

Why do we really do certain things certain ways. Is it some sort of fundamentally important requirement that has just settled into our skin and bones? Or is it a result of some inertial Zeitgeist that has long since become obsolete?

Often, you cannot discover which features are truly required and which are no longer necessary, until you turn a design on its head, make a fantastical what-if scenario, and try to solve that problem for real. Only then will you find yourself facing impractical problems that highlight other design choices that you weren't consciously thinking of. Only then will you be broken from your patterns of thought enough to solve problems in unconventional ways, perhaps even discovering something more efficient or enjoyable.

In my day-job as a software developer, I'm known as someone who excels at "thinking outside the box" (a tired cliche that nevertheless is most useful to get the point across). I'm often the one who suggests completely bizarre and unexpected approaches to problems. I'm often the one who comes up with ridiculous solutions, too. But even in those cases, the ridiculous suggestions help me learn more about the problem I'm trying to solve, so it's a win.

Take a look at the NonObject book and web site, and also at Roger von Oech's web site.

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