Technology is at its best when it is invisible
And that my friends is a quote from Nassim Taleb’s thought provoking book “Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder”. Good technology he maintains allows the job to be done without drawing attention to itself.
Take the Nike hyperfeel shoe for instance – it prides on making the runner feel the ground he is running on better/ get attuned to it as it were. This is the latest in a long evolution of footwear – and while hyperfeel’s ancestors prided on insulating the runner from the environment (Nike air with all that padding for instance!), the new generation prides itself on inclusiveness with the environment. This shoe is meant to allow the runner become one with his environment – its success is in making itself invisible!
Or take this quote from a fastcodesign.com article on google’s newly found design ethos “Google’s aesthetic aim is clear: to disappear. The most beautiful Google experience is the one you never notice”. An ethos that has found its way into many of google’s new products delighting its customers.
The living root bridges at chirapunjee where bridges are “grown over a decade or so” from live roots are great examples too. The bridges work, the trees continue to live and people use them to get across – the design is invisible. There are bridges that are reputed to be over 500 years old – talk about innovation, sustainability and invisible design all at one go!
And finally, this idea seems to not just propel technology and design, but also leadership – here’s a wonderful quote from the great Chinese sage Lao Tzu on leadership:
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”
That’s that then. Time to ask ourselves if our designs and our work (or for that matter, our very selves) are invisible and very handy or “in your face – more attention seeking than solving a purpose”.