Left brain, right brain and purpose. When brain sides collide.
At Dootrix we deliberately talk about using both sides of the brain because, although the jury is out on the neurology behind the idea, it neatly encapsulates the need to use creativity with engineering, together in harmony, in pursuit of a specific purpose.
The other weekend a friend and I were admiring a Ferrari 250 GTO in a pub carpark and we struck up a conversation with the owners. I was admiring the Scaglietti styling and the jaw-dropping fluid beauty of the bodywork (probably never equalled in automotive history), whilst my friend wanted to look under the bonnet. He’s a left-brainiac and I’m right.
He was asking the husband lots of questions about Weber carburettors, live rear axles and horsepower, whilst I talked to the wife about what it felt like to cruise around in. Our conversations joined in a confluence about the magic of the unmistakeable sound of a Ferrari V12 and what it felt like to drive. “Amazing,” was their reply in chorus, “It’s magical. Driving a GTO makes you feel like nothing on earth.”
It is a perfect example of building something with rock-solid engineering, combined with creative flair and a very clear purpose.
Brilliant products are built by teams who not only know what takes to make it work, how it has to work and most importantly, why it has to work. That’s not semantics, it’s the fundamental basis of product design, from furniture and packaging to architecture and software. Form and function, backend and frontend serving the design purpose.
It’s not good enough to make something work well, it has to work beautifully.
The early Blackberry phones were rock-solid bits of engineering that allowed corporate executives to access email securely, on the go, for the first time and for a while they were the must have thing for Wall Streeters everywhere. But they were ugly, heavy and if you had thumbs bigger than a child, the keyboards were impossible to use easily. It was a left brain device.
The iPhone killed the Blackberry overnight simply because it was a technical masterpiece that was a joy to use. Everything worked simply and beautifully and it looked like a delicious slice of the future. Next to an iPhone the Blackberry looked like a calculator from the Eighties.
When we talk about left brain thinking we’re talking about the engineering disciplines of software development to make something work properly and right brain is how we apply our thinking creatively to make it work beautifully. Both are design disciplines, and using the two together delivers the reason why we’re building it.
The defining purpose of the 250 GTO was to beat Jaguar E-types, AC Cobras and Aston Martins on the track. That was the central mission, but Enzo Ferrari wouldn’t tolerate ugliness in anything so it also had to be more beautiful than an E-type, and more satisfying to drive too. Petrol-heads can argue about the winner, but you can pick up a good E-type for less than £250,000, but to get a good GTO you’d need to add a couple more zeros onto the price tag.
In our work it’s important to define and appreciate the differences between UX, UI, graphic design, frontend and backend development, but they’re all techniques in the service of content delivery.
Recently we’ve been working on a mobile data visualisation app for law-enforcement teams, and although that sounds like a fairly dry, utilitarian job the purpose is to allow officers to make fast, informed decisions in the field. The scale and complexity of the data that needs to be delivered is huge, but the app has to present the right information in a simple and clear way, so it has to work beautifully.
The Blackberry is a lesson worth heeding. Access to their work email all the time was all that mattered to corporate America and Blackberry delivered it before anyone else, but it was a joyless experience. The hardware was solid and robust, the backend was secure, but the user experience was terrible.
A celestial choir chimed as you turned on an iPhone and every pre-installed app was a minimalist masterpiece of paired-back functionality. The iPhone’s only purpose was to deliver the whole wide world to your hand, beautifully, and it’s the yardstick by which every tech product — hardware and software — is now judged.
Pick your favourite product, from Ferraris or Ray Bans to Dysons or Instagram and behind their design will you’ll find as many creatives as engineers, all fixated on one very clear purpose.
Not all of us at Dootrix are fan-boys, but we all admire Apple’s relentless use of all of their design brainpower in everything they do, and we keep that at the front of our minds in everything we do too.