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Summary:

Technology cycles have been on a tear for decades, with each chip iteration bringing more capabilities at lower prices. But less can be more in tech products–and design is the way to balance that factor.

There’s no disputing, at least not yet, that Moore’s Law still rings true: Every 18 months or so, technology becomes twice as good at roughly half the cost. That means since the dawn of computing, technology has been a driving force in what we want: more of it. That’s changing, however, said John Maeda, president of Rhode Island School of Design, now that design is coming to the forefront of new technological products.

Speaking on Tuesday at Gigaom’s Roadmap 2013 conference, Maeda said he spent the 1990s trying to understand the intersection of technology and art because design and computing didn’t really connect at all. What did he learn?

“There are three kinds of design that underlie experience design: The actions world of the body, the emotions world of the mind, and the relations world of people,” Maeda said. Originally there were two kinds: Physical and digital. Now there’s social; the world of people and this convergence creates opportunity and confusion, according to Maeda. Why? “Design is both superficial and substantive at the same time.”

So how does this relate to Moore’s Law?

A decade or two back, Moore was almost synonymous with the word “more.” People prioritized more technological capability and lower cost over other attributes. Give me more storage, more speed, more screen size, for example. But now, less is more, said Meada.

“It started with the iPod. Now we can buy as much or as little tech as we want.” And with good design, more is not better. “Less equals more because design balances desire for technology and utility of technology. Therefore, technology is now less important making design more visible and helps to balance between wanting more and less.”

Check out the rest of our Roadmap 2013 live coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:


A transcription of the video follows on the next page

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  1. Sorry, but no…no…no.

    Moore’s Law is not “technology becomes twice as good at roughly half the cost”

    Instead it’s the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. And, it’s predicted soon that it will become every three years.

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  2. Sorry, but I don’t see the connection between better design and reduced importance of technology/capability. There will always be people who demand advancements in both and one does not obviate the need for the other.

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