It’s probably somewhat weird to admit that after visiting the MoMA in New York a couple years ago, what I remembered most was a Wall Calendar in the gift shop. Having recently moved to NYC, I thought I’d treat myself.
The pattern is customized by arranging and stacking differently shaped colored panels to make new combinations. The dates are also swappable panels. It’s pretty low-fi, but zen in it’s own way.
Not so shockingly however, I haven’t remembered to stop and rearrange those vibrant panels or update the date in over two weeks. So for no particular reason I spent a weekend making a web version of the calendar.
In some ways it’s better than the MoMA original:
- It automatically updates itself.
- It only takes a click to create a new panel combination.
- The original has 12 panel colors, this has 255³.
- It’ll fit in your pocket (on your phone).
- You can fork and remix it into something new.
In “What Screens Want”, Frank Chimero makes the case that the inherent ‘shape’ of software is an amorphous ever-changing reflection of ourselves. We talk about software today the way we used to talk about plastic in the 70s - it’s now everywhere, has endless malleability and enables new product forms and behaviours that can only be done in this brave new world.
But because all this software is stuck inside glowing rectangles of varying sizes, none of it is as easy to use as the humble sandwich. We already know how to use real world tools and objects like hammers and sandwiches because they are clearly based on universal physical laws. A sandwich uses the elementary principles of shape and weight to teach you how to use it:
- By the time you have teeth, you've already learned how to hold sandwich-shaped objects.
- As you eat it, it gets lighter, indicating how much is left.
- The bending and bucking of the bread to contain it’s ingredients indicates the density of the sandwich and also warns you if the sandwich is unstable.
All of this happens without a user interface of icons or text.