After a very pleasant night’s sleep, Joe, Carol, Erin, and I walked around Battle Ground to check out the new subdivisions and to examine some of the new houses being built. None of the model homes or offices were open, but we peeked inside several under construction houses. It was fun to admire and to critique the design, something about which I find myself becoming increasingly snobbish. More on this in a bit.

We returned to Joe and Carol’s, packed up, and ate lunch. With our deepest thanks to Joe and Carol for the great weekend, we departed for my 2:15 PM soccer game in Portland.

One might have expected that I’d be too sore and too tired to play a soccer game just a day after climbing a mountain. Ha! I’m also too dense to know what’s good for me. So play I did, helping our team more than hurting it as we cruised to a 4-2 victory. Thank God we had subs this week, or I would’ve been in big trouble. As is, it just hurts to walk.

I wanted to talk a little bit more about design since I’m finding increasingly that it’s a major criterion for me in distinguishing good from bad. To be more specific, usability of design—something I’m almost tempted to call elegance. Applying this to a computer operating system, I don’t really care if Apple’s Aqua interface is all prettied up. I care a lot more that’s functional and well thought out. That there is a mind a work—and the smarter, the better—behind the designs with which I interact is perhaps the first thing I look for in making judgments of just about everything.

In the case of an operating system, Apple has long polished the Mac OS with little refinements (some of which seem almost extraneous) which indicate that, “Yes, we’ve put some mental energy into how this is supposed to work.” Microsoft’s Windows operating systems, by contrast, seem cobbled together, and the result is that they are much more difficult to run for both first-time users who want ease-of-use and power-users who want efficiency and speed.

Moving to a different context, I’ve been looking at a lot of houses in the past year, and from a design perspective I’ve really got to say that I’ve been unimpressed. A remarkable number of very expensive homes are being built around designs which I consider woeful. You can’t really blame the construction folks who, after all, are just following the blue prints, but I’ve been amazed by what designers and architects are getting green lighted.

Admittedly, I’m not a house designer, and that’s part of the reason I’ve sent my own drawings of our house remodel out to people brighter than me. It’s a practice I will continue when my next set of designs are ready (hopefully in a few more weeks). I don’t know what our place will end up looking like, but I’m certain that there will be thought behind the choices we make, and that alone would seem to elevate our chances of rebuilding this place into something better than most.

At the end of the day, is good design difficult? I don’t think so. It requires a modicum of intelligence and a degree of experience, but it’s just not that hard to build in utility and ease-of-use. Is great design difficult? Absolutely. Reconciling multiple factors, making trade-offs (and design is all about trade-offs), and creating a uniformity of presentation can be extraordinarily difficult. Especially on a budget like ours. =)

All of which is why I’m a design bigot. I’ll tolerate (and sometime enjoy) good design. But great design, where a person (or group) has overcome challenges to create something extraordinary (like, say, Apple’s iPod), well, it’s one of my great joys in life. The downside is, of course, that I dislike most of what’s out there, almost regardless of product category, but the upshot is that when I find something I like, I am one smitten kitten.