/ Designing Magic

At the age of 16, my summer job was more of a mini-career. A neighbor who owned a small but highly-successful marketing company gave me a company BMW and an expense account.

While my friends toiled in the summer heat mowing lawns or painting houses, I sped across the Northeast presenting to clients and attending trade shows.

Lucky as I was, most of those days have been forgotten – except one.

Finishing up one evening an upscale client gathering outside Boston, a gentleman struck up a conversation with me about the gadget I was peddling.

The gadget was cool, he said, but people don’t care about technology. Bells and whistles might get their attention, but it won’t capture their hearts – or wallets.

Then, borrowing a phrase from Arthur C. Clarke, he said, “the only technology that people really want is one that is indistinguishable from magic.”

At the time, I thought he was looney. But years later, I am still haunted by the idea – because it’s the truth.

To paraphrase a line from the movie the Social Network: “Technology isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Magic!”

Magic isn’t something that works for just geeks or analysts. It works for everyone.

Magic is more than social, it’s connectedness. It’s real-time and forever. It doesn’t require you to enter a server’s IP address or even have to know what that is.

Magic is easy, and how it should be because the reality of our industry is that nothing works.

It’s what lets me type this note on a glowing piece of glass and why Apple’s market cap is north of $350 billion.

Magic isn’t easy or obvious. At best, it’s like that word that’s on the tip of your tongue. That frustration you feel as you wrestle to say what’s right in front of you.

For a user experience designer like myself, magic is the Holy Grail. Anything less is something that my customers could live without.

Magic is the ultimate disruptive technology.

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