Andy Gott

Two lego men with a film camera


02 Feb 2014

I spend a lot of my waking hours making digital stuff, and I’m acutely aware of how intangible the whole thing is. The software I build, and most of the process of building it, only exists behind glass fronted portals into abstract representations of ideas, workflows, and information. Screens are almost frictionless to the touch, and the things they render feel similarly without traction.

The screens that I make for—even those that respond to touch—lack the tactile experiences of the things they often replace. I think this is why I love paper, pencils, print, Lego, circuit boards, pulleys and levers—they fill the gap left by spending so much time working with abstracted user interfaces for digital devices.

Building lego on a screen just doesn’t do it for me. Much of the joy I derive from building with Lego is down to it’s tactile nature. It’s the satisfying click I hear when pushing two blocks together, and the feel of them locking into place. It’s being able to turn an object over in my hands, make parts move, see and feel how it’s constructed.

I love technology, and firmly believe that it opens up a plethora of opportunities to make amazing things we haven’t yet dreamed of. I’m certain that technology does—and will increasingly—play a significant role in improving things for people and the planet. Despite its intangible nature, software can be joyful and beautiful, and making user interfaces that feel good and work well is a very rewarding process. I have a lot of fun making digital things.

We need tactility, though. We need to make with our hands, click lego, solder wires, draw lines, shape wood and fold paper. As companies like Facebook develop business models that thrive on encouraging people to move ever more of their activity into the intangible world of software, perhaps we should react by making user interfaces that people spend less time with. Maybe some of them could even encourage their users to put the device down and pick up something tactile.