The things I truly enjoy using all have something in common. They are meticulously crafted. A culmination of years of work, iteration and experience, but it’s more than that. These are products that are so obvious, so normal you have to stop and think before you realise the work that has gone into them.
Functions have been distilled into the purest, most efficient form. Using these products is a thoughtless action. They are full of ‘of course’ moments. Moments where you can’t imagine any other way of doing things. The interaction presented is so obvious that it must be the only one. ‘Of course it works this way, how else would one do it?’.
Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa, designers at Muji use the term super normal to describe a design philosophy they define their work by. Products that are unnoticeable, almost boring but yet enhance our environment and our lives so positively.
“The objects that really make a difference to our lives are often the least noticeable ones, that don’t try to grab our attention. They’re the things that add something to the atmosphere of our homes and that we’d miss the most if they disappeared. That’s why they’re ‘super normal.” — Jasper Morrison
While the above was written about physical objects, I believe the same to be true for technology. When I first read about the super normal philosophy from Dave Morin’s excellent post it immediately resonated. I had made the move to product design about six months prior and over time I began to truly embrace convention.
As a product designer there are many opportunities to impress the people using your products with slick interfaces, but these moments are short lived, and rarely useful. What we should be aiming for is to create a something so intuitive and so frictionless it’s unnoticeable. Only then have we created something of true value.