Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gutenberg and interaction design.

We might not be fully in the Kindle-era (see previous post) but 550 years ago we weren't yet fully in the Gutenberg era either, and things turned out ok for the movable type guys over time.

Right now, I am serendipitously in the middle of a book by John Man called: "Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words." It is an interesting story of how a business idea (mass and uniform production)combined with existing technologies (the wine press or the olive press) to revolutionize the world. What really made things click for Gutenberg though was interaction design. Books, scribed books, hand-written by dozens of bald-pated monks had their rules. Words looked a certain way on the page. And Gutenberg, though it would have been easier and perhaps more intuitive to change the old order, stayed with the program. And his printed books looked and read much like scribed books. In short order, thousands and thousands of books were printed in Europe. Gutenberg's technology was the Windows of its day. Because good ol' Johann understood that humans can't take too much change at one time.

I'm not a fan of the shibboleth of interaction design. It's not a substitute for an idea. But there is something to be learned here.

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