Work that touches

I can’t physically touch my work.

Well I could touch it, but it wouldn’t mean anything.

I could find the location of the server I’m working on, drive to the building, pull out one of the hard drives, remove the disk, and run my finger along it. The thing is, that wouldn’t tell me anything meaningful.

Those of us who build websites, software, and other digital products have to experience our work digitally through the devices we use.

So many people who work with technology have hobbies that are tactile. A previous co-worker started a miniature farm; he and his wife have a garden, raise chickens, built fencing for a pasture, and bought a cow. A developer I know learns everything he can about cooking. Another co-worker roasts his own coffee. Working in the digital space causes us to crave work we can actually touch.

Maybe we’re also craving work that touches us. Our work can’t touch us physically, but it can touch us emotionally. This is why I’m a fan of people like Aaron Walter and Nicole Jones. They recognize the power of creating something that isn’t just useful, it’s personal.

Our users have come to expect this, and the products that make it a habit are rewarded with something money can’t buy: memorability.

Whether it’s the transparent Letterpress release notes, Grubhub’s loyalty game that gives out free treats, or SplatF’s playful pagination, designers are constantly finding new ways to touch people.

We may not be able to touch our work, but that doesn’t mean it can’t touch us.