I signed up for the Hack Design course which aims to teach design to hackers. The intro exercise for the course was to watch a documentary on design called Objectified which has a bunch of designers talking about their design philosophy and how it relates to the objects they create. The common theme I took from it was how the design of everyday objects (chairs, tables, computers, mobile phones) had a large effect on the behaviour and mood of the user.
It got me thinking: there’s an insanely small subset of objects that I spend the vast majority of my time with. What are these objects, and how satisfied am I with each of them? How much time and effort have I put into making these specific objects a part of my life? Did I just default into using them or did I make a concerted effort to seek them out? It makes sense that the things I spend all of my time with should be awesome and make me happy.
The results were interesting to me. Here they are (with % of hours per week used in brackets):
1. Bed (~30%)
– I love my bed. Last year we splashed out and bought a big pimpin’ King Size Tempurpedic that’s an absolute joy to crawl into each night. Seriously, it feels like a massage. I used to go to hotels excited about the comfy beds and now I’m just like “meh”. Before that we had a shitty $100 Craigslist one that gave you back pain.
2. Office computer (~25%)
– We have big, beautiful iMacs at work that are a joy to use. There’s been a lot written on Apple’s focus on design and how that translates into great products so I won’t go into why they’re so amazing. I’ll just say that on a personal level a computer that is actually fun to use is a huge help for the productivity of a software engineer.
3. Office chair (~25%)
– Our office chairs are so-so, not great but not terrible. They’re the kind of thing you forget about as soon as you start working but I think this would be one area to improve on.
4. Office desk (~25%)
– We pair program a fair amount, so our office desks are wide and spacious. Overall they’re nice to use. The warp whistle improvement for desks is to get an adjustable height desk so that you’re not sitting down for 8 hours straight. I had one at a previous job and it made me happy every time I moved it up or down. People are happy when they have the power to alter their environment, and the objects that make up that environment are part of that equation.
5. Livingroom couch (5-8%)
– We have a leather couch from Ikea which has served us well since we bought it 5 years ago. I really like sitting on it and love the smooth feel of the leather. My only complaint is that it gets fricking cold at some points in the winter. I’m not sure how design can help there, other than to use a different material.
6. Bike & helmet (~4%)
– I really like both my bike and my helmet. When I bought them I made a conscious decision to finally buy a helmet that fit well and felt good. Before that I’d always thought of a bike helmet as an afterthought but at some point I realized that I wear that damn thing more than any article of clothing I own and that it would behoove me to loathe it less. Now each morning when I put my helmet on before heading out the door I’m happy. It feels like an exoskeleton extension of my head instead of a crude anchor designed to hamper my movement and balance.
So out of the top 6 items I use most frequently, half of them I deliberately sought out (bed, bike, couch) and spent the time/money to get one I would like. The other half are at my office (computer, desk, chair) so I didn’t have any input into buying them.