Jeremy Philip Galen

Product Marketing at Facebook. Cinephile. Cynic. Levinasian.

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On Design, Rationality, and Ethics

For a while I’ve wondered why exactly an experience with good design should be satisfying. You could say that when something is well designed it achieves its purpose efficiently, it’s easier to use than what’s preceded it, or perhaps it’s more elegant.

What’s nagged at me though is the sense that we don’t quite use the right vocabulary for expressing the first-person experience of good design. Especially with digital products, should we use words like “user-friendly” or “useable” or “ergonomic”? Do any of these words capture what we mean? Perhaps this explains the ubiquity of “well-designed” as a term of praise. We can’t easily be more specific so we just refer to it tautologically.

In an essay called THE SENTIMENT OF RATIONALITY, the philosopher William James argues for an affective component in the recognition of rationality:

“The transition from a state of puzzle and perplexity to...

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