Friday, September 22, 2006

What's the USE?

As an engineer, I have always focused on the functionality of a product with little attention left for the appearance. This is the old 'function determines form' attitude in spades.

It is easy to take the human out of the function equation, to define function in terms of a set of specifications that can be reduced to numbers. If you hit the numbers, the function is there; if you don't, it's back to the drawing board (or the unemployment office).

But a good design isn't just a set of numbers; the thing being designed is something that people will use. The starting point for a good design is an understanding of use. 'Use' is a slippery word - we ‘use’ it to mean different things and, in design, it can often morph into function - a thing is 'used' through the manipulation of its functionality. This is where engineers and designers can get sidetracked - use is defined in terms of function, cutting out the primary reason for the design - What is someone going to USE it for?

I would suggest that Amplio is trying to create a product (or system or component or whatever it is called) that enables people to enjoy their audio collections to the greatest possible degree. The key word here is enjoy - to give people all the sound that is possible - nothing less, nothing more.

When I am listening to music I don't want to be aware of the process that is bringing it to me, either through artifacts in the sound or by being aware of the equipment that is making my listening possible and I would guess that most other listeners would have similar needs.

Stating this another way, a good system will give me perfect fidelity while being completely invisible.

I can’t have this – perfect and invisible are out of human reach – but how do we get close?

That’s the challenge – I hope to look back in a few years and say we are very, very close.

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