Brussels / 3 & 4 February 2018


The case against "It just works" or how to avoid #idiocracy

Design, education, politics and fake news.

Design is more than usability testing and click analytics. Design always carried the dominant ideas of the era and championed them, forming cultures along the way. Today's design is immensely influenced by Steve Jobs and his "Just Works" and "Automagically" mantras. While recognizing the significance of the democratization of technology, it was done in a way that for the first time completely hides the way things work from their users. In fact it goes to great lengths to lock users out of their gadgets.

Open source is about, among other things, freedom to study. In this spirit open source design isn't only about the sources of design documents, it's about facilitating the study of the inner workings: Let's create designs that are easy to use yet teach the user how the system we are designing works. Informed users will be able to better understand why a result is not what they expected, will be able to solve more of the possible problems, and the result is being happier both with the system and with themselves.

In this presentation, we will study how design was once overtly political, along with a few notable historical design movements, analyze the current state of design, how it came to be and its effects on human intellect, and then propose a new design direction inspired in part by video games where the goal isn't to blindly guide our users to their goal, but teach them how to achieve what they need, using our software as a tool and make feel rewarded with the results of their efforts, and not the results of an "automagical" piece of software.


Photo of Michael Demetriou Michael Demetriou