Freud popularised the term, “The Narcissism of Minor Differences”, to describe how adjacent villages—identical for all practical purposes—would struggle to amplify their tiniest distinctions in order to justify how much they despised one other. So you have to guess how much he would have enjoyed design mailing lists. And, Perl.
Truth is, to the untrained (un-washed, un-nuanced, un-Paul-Rand’d, and un-Helvetica’d) outsider, discourse in the design community can sometimes look a lot like a cluster of tightly-wound Freudian villages.
So, how is the role of design perceived by the people who are using the stuff you make? What role (if any) should users expect in the process of how their world is made and remade? What contexts might be useful in helping us turn all of our obsessions into useful and beautiful work?
Can an Aeron chair ever be truly ‘Black’? Will there ever be a way to get Marketing people to stop calling typefaces ‘fonts’? And, when, at last, will the international community finally speak as one regarding the overuse of Mistral and stock photos of foreshortened Asian women?
By leveraging his uniquely unqualified understanding of design, Merlin will propose some promising patterns for fording the gap between end-users and the unhappy-looking people in costly European eyeglasses who are designing their world.
Is there hope? Come to Brighton, pull up a flawlessly-executed mid-century-Modern seating affordance, and we'll see what we can figure out together. One village to another.
Merlin Mann is best known as the creator of 43folders.com, a popular American website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.