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  • Writer's pictureTidy Content

On the thermodynamics of design

The energy in any closed, isolated system remains constant over time.

This is the law of conservation of energy. 


As the saying goes, energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

It can only be transformed from one form to another, transferred from one place to another.

In theory, any type of energy can be converted to any other.

So, when we use it, we make it change shapes: we displace, sometimes even misplace it.

A variation of this forms the first principle of thermodynamics too.


Thermodynamics is the study of how energy moves and changes in different systems, its efficiency and constraints: it’s about the performance of work.


Energy, time, work and power are tightly interconnected.

In the (semi) closed circuit between us and our users via our product or service, the energy must remain constant.

The time, effort and care that we put into our work to simplify — making things as intuitive and uncomplicated as possible — releases our users from a burden.

“Don’t make me think” means “don’t make me work”.

When we do the heavy lifting and put our energy, time and attention into the work, we relieve our users from the need to work for it.

The need to work things out.


And that’s freeing and empowering. Because most of the time, and especially when talking about public services, users do not care about our bells and whistles; they want to do a thing and get on with their lives.

We respect, honour and give back their time, energy and attention.


We free them from the strain of wasteful work, and allow them to redirect their energies and focus on the things that really matter to them.


Good design empowers and frees people from the unnecessary.

Good design gives people their lives back.


Good design — invisible design — is a moral imperative.

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