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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Designing Language - With Om's article The Intimate Computing era is here.

Who invents words, concepts describing things that do not exist or just taking form? It has been argued that Shakespeare alone added 2000 words to the English language. Late in my career at Fjord I had an insight about design. I realized that a very high form of design is to design language. There is a great passage at the end of Stephen Fry's talk at Apple about language invention, but not anything in his wonderful BBC documentary about language. Perhaps a challenge for you Stephen.

In my view the best language designers are journalists. They are observing the world as it unfolds, they are forced to act as translators between the inventors and the general public. They lack the creative freedom of Authors, who has lots of room to share their concepts. Journalist are trapped in short form and tight deadlines, the essentials of innovation. Innovation is an escape in a constrained situation. Journalist are forced simplifying for the benefit of their readers. Eventually some of these concepts end up in the common language.

A word and concept being crafted at the moment is Intimate Computing. My dear friend Om Malik pondered what one should call the next paradigm in computing. The moment when the computer meets the physical body full of curves and personality. Personal Computer has been used. As these computers will have skin contact, they will have sensors, they will driven by the individuals and their tastes, Intimate Computing sounded plausible.

So as a master designer of language, Om introduced this concept to the world in an article he knew would be widely read, 'At the intersection of fashion and technology, is retail chief Angela Ahrendts Apple's next CEO?' with a title like that his readership is wide accross both fashion and technology. Deep in the article he masterfully introduces his new design concept 'The rise of intimate computing... he explains what it is. I get a bit of credit, but the important thing we have a new concept of reference.

I am incredibly pleased as I now lean on Om and explain to others that this is the next paradigm in computing is Intimate Computing, why I think it will be huge, what I am doing to help it take shape. 

In the paradigm shift to Intimate Computing, wearables go mainstream, eventually displaying the phone, because the phone as we know it become a pad. In this paradigm shift I predict one category of wearables is going to be truly transformative and that is social jewelry. It is the category where the utility of communication meets the vanity of jewelry and fashion. This is what I would like to perfect the operating system and wearable experience we at Koru are designing. It is a long journey of transformation, dispuption and creation. It is a journey where we will meet luck and serendipity. I cannot imagine anything more exciting to work on.

What makes Language design so much complicated than other forms of design, is that we humans speak different languages, and important concepts need to be localised.

Few weeks ago I was doing an interview in Swedish national radio and we talked about wearables, and I said that they will be 'klädbara datorer', the journalist looked at me and said no. It is a conceptual translation, dolls are klädbara. So what should we call them I asked. I suggested this is your job to invent, if not I will have to stick to my word 'Klädbara'. It is not perfect word, but it fits well in the mouth and the word computer could be left out. In Finnish this is already happening, there we are already seeing Puettavat tietokoneet as the expression in media. Remember the car was called Motor Car at some point, Recent favorite of me was the battle between Pad and Tablet. Pad fits better in the mouth and this is something Apple knew. They are, I think the only company that I think deliberately designs language. Love to hear from you if you are designing language.

When working on something as fundamental as a paradigm shift, one needs to start at the fundamentals; language. One piece done: ‘Intimate Computing’ – Thank you Om.


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