Richness over Convenience

My new turntable arrived Friday (a Rega P1 if you're interested) and everything about it is beautifully inconvenient. It arrived partially assembled, it's 100% manually operated - you literally move the belt between gears to change speed from 33.3 to 45, it fits awkwardly in my component shelf and it requires that archaic and fragile media format called "the record". But you know I love it.

It's the ceremony of starting the machine, removing the vinyl from the large cardboard sleeve, holding it carefully with two hands, cueing the stylus slowly above a desired groove, watching it settle precisely and then sitting in front of the speakers for 20 minutes with no remote control, FF or RW.

It's the sound of gentle contact when the needle touches the record, followed by the warm sound of analog formats and even the occassional undesired pop from a missed dust particle that reminds me this is a complex physical action. It's the exposed bolts, wires and belts that remind that I'm enjoying a mechanical world. It needs me.

Saturday morning it occurred to me that I enjoy making coffee for the same kinds of reasons. I filter the water, grind the beans, carefully measure the resulting aromatic oily powder, brew or French press (more ceremony there), and once finished, drink it from a specific small diner cup and saucer set we bought from a used diner-ware wholesaler back in Chattanooga.

I enjoy the ceremony that builds to a rich sensory experience and the joy is made stronger by the combination. I might argue that the tone and flavor are better too — maybe because it truly is multi-sensory.

I just finished co-authoring an article with my colleague Jane Fulton Suri for the Summer 2010 issue of  Rotman Magazine. In it we discuss the balance of methods and sensibilities that makes design thinking successful. The best designs aren't just answers to problems. They are answers that solve and bring delight; it's important for us (designers and non) to remember that it's not just our process or methods that yield results. Our sensibilities are the other half of a successful equation.