skip to main | skip to sidebar

Monday, December 17, 2007

Don't think kitchen, think cooking

I was listening to a talk by Robert Kalin from the 2006 IDEA (Information: Design, Experience, Access) conference in Seattle and I came across a saying that comes from architectural design "Don't think kitchen, think cooking". This is the type of thing that I love to latch onto. To restate this: avoid preconceptions by keeping your conceptual domain as large as is possible but no larger. The 'no-larger' part is very important and is driven home rather well by a long winded joke that my boss pointed me to "A toaster is not a breakfast food cooker".

I love to cook though I seldom get the chance. Mainly this is because wife says I make too much of a mess when I cook. I consider this point irrelevant; since I always clean up my 'mess' what difference does it make how big it is? In any case when I think kitchen my mind scans every kitchen I have ever cooked in and takes in the good points and throws out the bad and I have a pretty good idea of what a kitchen should look like. These are preconceptions. When I think cooking my mind jumps into creative analysis mode and I begin to consider the different points of cooking, what is convenient and inconvenient, and what needs to exist to allow me to cook easily.

I once saw a picture in a magazine of an extendable faucet over a stove. This is a great idea. When you needed to add water to a pot you simply extended the faucet rather than carrying the pot to the sink or getting a pitcher to carry water to the pot. This little detail is a major convenience that could only have developed by thinking cooking not kitchen.

There's a shortage of good material on good design but I just found an excellent book on web usability and design called "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug. I also found the transcript of an interview he gave on usability if you'd like to see what he's about.

Another excellent book(not web/programming specific) on usability and general good design practices is "The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald A. Norman. The concepts he discusses carry over to programming.