The shock of the new

From The Jolly Contrarian
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The design of organisations and products
Liverpool modern.jpg
Survivor bias waiting to happen. AKA: Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Worcester cathedral.jpg
Surviving done properly. 1,000 years in; failing war or civilisation’s collapse in the mean time, at least 1,000 more to come.
Making legal contracts a better experience
Index — Click ᐅ to expand:

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Requests? Insults? We’d love to 📧 hear from you.
Sign up for our newsletter.

Random thoughts on the impermanence of modernism.

The curse of novelty

What is new cannot last as the new. Either it dies, or it grows old. So if your only quality is novelty, you will die young. Conclusion: build with qualities other than novelty. If only novelty gets you out of the gate — enjoy your fifteen minutes. Blondie had it backwards: Stay pretty? Die young.

Clean lines and flat panels don’t age well. They don’t take dirt. It is easy to make them look tired & decrepit. Classical structures — as in “traditional”, but also in the strict sense of classical —do age well. Ornament and figure instead of functional cleanliness is punctuation; it anticipates decay. Ergo, ornament has a function: exactly that: to anticipate decay. Dirt and grime colours it in; highlights lines, enhances it: gives it an air of permanence. This is may be a variety of anti-fragility. If your sense of modern is so clean and functional that it is rendered vulnerable by atrophy, rather than simply stoic, and dignified, steer clear of it. Modernism suffers from decay that obscures and debilitates its form — here decay is noise: classicism benefits from decay that accentuates its form — here decay is signal.

Innovation and plausibility

Legaltech plausibility heuristic — ask: why hasn’t it been done before now?

Good answers: “The technology did not exist before now.” “The regulation did not allow it till now.”

Bad answers: “The market is not yet ready for it.” “Customers lack the necessary vision.”[1]

Most nascent legaltech has only bad answers. (“AI”, machine learning, neural networks ≠ “tech that didn't exist till now”.)

Do it properly

Do it properly. Build for the long term. The lesson of Worcester, and its Cathedral: if you make it easy, you will attract the mediocre and encourage them to be lazy. If you do it properly, it will stand for 1,000 years and still take the breath away.

Form v function and substance over form. Condorcet paradox?

See also


  1. This is another way of framing the observation: “we do not understand what our customer wants”.