Well designed things

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design is the realisation of the purpose underlying a thing. the purpose might be contrived or evolved. the thing might be physical, digital, or conceptual. design is what makes it fit for purpose.

i consider there to be two types of design: intentional design, where someone has considered and crafted something, such as a user interface or a tool; and organic design, where something grows of its own accord, like a language or a city.

a well designed intentional design should have few moving parts and no sharp edges. you cannot have a well designed organically designed thing, as the design has occured naturally over time. this tends to result in many more moving parts, but also more rounded edges. more nuance is involved in using things that have designed themselves through usage. you not have good grammar at speaking, you understanded still.

sometimes it's hard to tell which category something falls into. is a knife or a wheel intentionally designed? is esperanto intentionally designed? sure it originally was, but has it evolved enough to be an organic language? native speakers speak it significantly differently to non-native speakers, to my ear at least. it has enough sharp edges that for now i would say it still belongs in the intentionally designed category.

sharp edges tend to arise when something is designed to be as consistent as possible, as humans inevitably make mistakes or overlook things.

Rice cooker

on this page i want to talk about how delightful the rice cooker is. the rice cooker as a single item embodies my vision for healthy technological progress more than anything else i can think of right now.

what is a rice cooker? it's a little pot for cooking rice. of course, it doesn't have to be little; you can find very big ones that restaurants use. it also doesn't have to be for cooking rice, but i'll get on to that. you plug your rice cooker in, add rice and water, and press the switch. once your rice is cooked, it will automatically stop cooking the rice, instead simply keeping it warm.

(to be clear, i will only be talking about the single button style of rice cooker here, as that is the kind that i have and the kind that i love. the other kinds, with many more buttons, are not nearly as delightful for me; on digital appliances, buttons kill delight. the important thing about rice cookers is that the manufacturers seem to realise this, and you can still very easily and cheaply buy a rice cooker with only one button. if you tried to do the same thing with a washing machine, or a tv, to give two examples, you would find it much harder).

how nice is that? rice is not easy to cook. but the rice cooker is easy to use. the rice cooker inhabits a niche: it does something mundane, so that people don't have to worry about it. that's so considerate!

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