Inspiration under a rock

05 November 2006

PLANET ARGON’s office is a hop, skip, and a jump (about 3 city blocks) from Portland’s Pearl District, which is a really nice thing for lunch with one’s girlfriend. Everyone knows that girls love to shop, right? Gross over-generalization or not, it’s true. Anyway, while browsing through Anthropologie, I’m of course drawn to any stack of books I see. On a nice diagonal book shelf, I located two quite interesting books: Modern Glamour: The Art of Unexpected Style and China Chic.

Yeah, both a little different than typical books I read, but they got me thinking. First, they have lots of interesting compositions; colors, shapes, arrangements that are a pleasure to look at. Second, the compositions are, of course, much more than just collections of colors and shapes. It’s the arrangement part, the whole design, that got me thinking.

With software, we’re often confronted with a level of granularity that isn’t very useful. If an application has some sort of access control, we may be required to twiddle read/write/execute-type permissions for each object. That’s just an example, but one that is particularly problematic for non-savvy users. The implementation model is bleeding through worse than a horror-flick bloody corpse. At that level of granularity, it’s like all the fabrics, wall-hangings, window-treatments, and furniture are arranged in a nice matrix of boxes in the middle of the room instead of making up the room as a whole.

For one of our projects, we’re exploring how we can create idioms that allow the user to manipulate objects at a much higher level. For example, adding someone as a co-worker to a project allows them to make changes, while sharing the project with a friend allows the friend to leave comments but not make changes.

So, are you creating stylish, integrated, holistic rooms in your software? And where do you find odd inspiration in your everyday life?