Hockney images and Chimero quotes from Frank Chimero’s The Web’s Grain.

Noya and Bill Brandt with Self Portrait (Although They Were Watching This Picture Being Made) by David Hockney, 1982
Billy Wilder Lighting His Cigar, by David Hockney, 1982
The Scrabble Game, by David Hockney, 1982

With the Mona Lisa, we have fixed, uniform edges that can be planned for with a high degree of certainty and control. We revere and celebrate this painting because of that exquisite control.

With the joiner, we have a different kind of beauty. It is an edgeless surface of unknown proportions, comprised of small, individual, and variable elements from multiple vantages assembled into a readable whole that documents a moment.

Also known as web design. Here, I’ll restate what I just said, but this time, imagine I’m talking about web design and not the Hockney photos:

an edgeless surface of unknown proportions comprised of small, individual, and variable elements from multiple vantages assembled into a readable whole that documents a moment

That’s a pretty good description of the visual challenges in interaction design, huh?

My head is spinning.

The practice of assembling conflicts with most of the terminology we have in place for responsive design. Our words make it seem that we’re designing how elements break down, but really, we should be focusing on how they build up.


point of reassembly

So, those media queries we write? It might be time to stop calling them breakpoints, and instead consider them points of reassembly.

And this concept, just like the layouts we create, can reach out a bit further.

Expand Until Collapse

You could say that our current technological arrangement has spread out too far, and it is starting to look and feel wrong. Fortunately, we can treat this over-expansion just like everything else I’ve mentioned. We can draw a line, and create a point of reassembly for what we’ve made. We can think about how to shift, move, and resize the pieces so that they fall back in line with our intentions. This power is compounded for those of us who make this technology.

But this is not a technological response. It is an explicit act of will—an individual’s choice to change their behaviors about what to use, where to work, what to adopt, what to pay attention to. It is simple mindfulness, that thing which needy technology makes so hard to practice. And it starts with a question: what is technology’s role in your life? And what, really, do you want from it?

As for me? I won’t ask for peace, quiet, ease, magic or any other token that technology can’t provide—I’ve abandoned those empty promises. My wish is simple: I desire a technology of grace, one that lives well within its role.

How will we know that we’re there? I suppose we’ll look at what we’ve built, notice how the edges have dropped away, and actually be pleased it looks like it could go on forever.