halting problem :: design culture

:: ~2 min read

there are days when I just read places like Phoronix1 and the r/linux sub-reddit, and I stumble upon great stuff — when I say “stumble upon” I really mean “they are coming out of the walls”, and when I say “great stuff” I really mean “oh god oh god we’re all going to die”. I apologize for the language, but my Twitter feed is rated R by the ESRB.

the obvious point above is that a widely shared viewpoint in the free and open source software community at large is that “design” means “snazz up the UI” at best, or, at worst, as Hylke eloquently put:

the cognitive dissonance runs even deeper than just not realizing that “form follows function” is a conscious design choice. go to a conference, and look at the laptops, and you’ll see MacBooks or ThinkPads, which are two or the most heavily designed pieces of machinery in existence2. even on the software side, the whole idea of “Unix Philosophy” is the expression of a certain design culture.

in short: you cannot “not care” about design. everything deals with design, because design deals with everything we do.

obviously, design choices like make everything as clean and distraction-free as possible or vomit everything in front of the user like your GUI is the result of an explosion in a widget factory can either lead to useful user interactions or not, but they are design choices, whether you like them or not.

  1. I won’t dignify their click-bait policies with a link, I’m sorry. 

  2. one of the reasons I am not going to buy ThinkPad branded laptops any more is that Lenovo decided to re-design their product in a way that does not conform to the older industrial design tenets. 

design free software