Oct 14, 2017

Sometime last year, my Diwali-gifted smartphone kissed an elevator-floor. The glass shattered, sending proper menus and hamburger menus and notification icons and tiny unsubscribe buttons to corners they weren’t supposed to see. Two generous pieces of cellotape and some craftiness with the surgical blade held it together for a few days. 

I am not comfortable in my new interaction-designer shoes. I admire the printed page from the years spent in the screen-printing lab and under the A4 sheet studded wall in the Gurgaon studio and in quiet bookshops and in front of surprisingly good ‘PGs for Boys’ posters[^1] pinned to trees. Something from those years have put this ‘us-versus-them’ notion in place where I think about ‘experience designers’ the way I think about the sixth Hitchiker’s book. I don’t think it (the thinking) is entirely healthy or appropriate.

I have lost the urge to stay up-to-date. How a swipe up is different from a half-hearted swipe up-then-sideways seems trivial, overthought. I didn’t know it was possible to feel any more out of touch when in company of people talking technology. Despite a license, I stay behind on the older version of design software just so I can round corners individually. (No, that is an exaggeration. The X230 sans a battery won’t run like makhkhan anymore with countless updates and a hunger for a decent internet connection.) This is, I tell myself, not a Luddite romancing of older technology; I just find the illusion of control comforting. (There is a physical switch on the laptop that turns on the Vimanam mode. There is a battery I can pull out to make sure the phone is absolutely, positively, switched off, or parts I can put back together after a skirmish with the elevator-floor.) The rejection isn’t based on profound ethical questions or plant product induced lucidity; sometimes I just want to fiddle in the pant-pockets to change an inappropriate track. (This, while holding onto chromed pillars in an overcrowded bus home. The resemblance this exercise has to pole-dancing violates copyright laws. The bus twists and turns and wallops and sings a Metallica song as it comes to a halt, throwing you into a confused dance of limbs and polythene covers and the occasional umbrella. This is what I imagine mosh pits to be.)

Our devices have shrunk-in size and in number-to one portable, all-knowing object we sleep with and wake up to. Mine have, since the elevator incident, grown in number and demand room of their own. Shortly after switching to the Nokia 105, I found a 4th Generation iPod Classic on OLX, a used Fujifilm X-20 in Velacherry and fell back in love with the Kindle. I switch these[^2] the way people switch applications. Mine just involves more hand-chrome-pole-coordination. 


[^1]: There was one in front of the sandwich shop along the road next to Ramaiah Institute in Bangalore, where I would stop on my way to (and later, from) the IISc and polish off a black-tea and sandwitch, watching the traffic pause and change colours. The poster was basic, made in MS Word (or so it seemed). That is one thing I respect in those posters-you can’t tell which program they’ve been through. All our 3D rendered, bezier-nudged, pixel-pushed pieces carry that unmistakeable stamp of the program through to the end. To my biased eyes, they are somehow not ‘fully there,’ not honest enough, certainly not ‘loved’ the way someone who uses a tool along and outside its strict margins and bleed-marks loves her work. 

[^2]: The Price I Paid: A counter-argument to the many-devices proposition is the amount of money it takes to acquire and maintain these. Here is a cost breakdown for anyone interested. Nokia: Rs. 950 from a shop in Mavoor Road (cheaper than buying it online); iPod 4th Gen: Rs. 2300 off OLX (did not bargain); battery from iFixit: Rs. 860; Fujifilm X-20: Rs. 20,000, from OLX.

Update: KL11 Blog has an article on setting up a frugal design practice.