An Event Apart: “Durable Design”

Jon Tan speaking at An Event Apart Orlando 2018 on October 9, 2018

We’ve come such a long way in the last 20 years from a grass-roots web standards movement to Wired magazine launching a standards-based interface in 2003, to today, with all the tools and methods that inform current web design. But, where next? This talk makes a radical argument for recidivism in our design thinking; a return to durable, aesthetic, and inclusive web design. Through evidence and examples, you’ll learn to design for serendipity, for speed, and for economy of time, resources, and attention. Durable design is responsive design for the next decade, and it starts now.


  • Entropy? — Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder
  • Still trying to mitigate entropy, make things better
  • It’s all about quality of life — The age of your phone should not determine your quality of life
  • There’s a million ways to do something on the web — part of the problem and part of the beauty of the web
  • A modernist dream
  • Deutsche Werkbund — 1907, German work federation / Federation of craftsmen
  • Mission statement — Durable, Inclusive, Aesthetic
  • Durable — Able to withstand wear, pressure, or damage; hard-wearing
    • Impact, Immersion — Usually we’re designing for one of two these contexts
    • Enacted, Emergent
      • Enacted narratives — “[…] structured around the character’s movement through space and the features of the environment may retard or accelerate that plot trajectory.” — a checkout
      • Emergent narratives — “[…] spaces are designed to be rich with narrative potential, enabling the story-constructing activity of players.” — maps
  • Inclusive — Not excluding any section of society or any party involved in something
    • Inclusive means colleagues too
    • There are no edge cases, just edge connections. Edge cases are people trying to do stuff while their other tasks, their equipment, their location, and their cognition gets in the way.
  • Aesthetic — Giving or designed to give pleasure through beauty
    • “Aesthetics does not affect perceived usability [but] usability has an effect on post-use perceived aesthetics.”
    • Usable is beautiful — And durable, inclusive design is always beautiful, too!