June 20, 2011

Sprezzatura

Book of the Courtier

When discussing new technologies with clients and peers I often hear the importance of not building “technology for technology’s sake”.   I agree that this should be prevented but I prefer to think positively and speak about how we want technology to work instead of how we don’t want it to work.  In doing this, I use the word Sprezzatura.

Sprezzatura was coined by Baldassare Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier in 1528.  Castiglione coined the term to define the behavior of the perfect gentleman in the court.  But, trust me, it still applies today.

Castiglione described Sprezzatura as:

…to practice in all things a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.

The best applications and interfaces are so simple they “appear to be without effort” and are able to allow users to go about their business “without any thought about it.”  Registering via my cable provider for the amazing HBO Go App?  Well, that was the antithesis of Sprezzatura.  Purchasing the latest Jonathan Franzen novel with One Click on the beach on your Kindle?  That nails it.

At Corey, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the essence of Sprezzatura and technology.  We have decided that a technology – an application, interactive, etc. – achieves Sprezzatura when:

– What you want is there just when you need it
– You are remembered and understood
– Your location plays a role in the information you are presented
– The technology works simply
– The technology works unobtrusively to your benefit

When working on our client projects we have injected the following principles into our process to ensure our solutions achieve Sprezzatura:

– Understand business process in detail
– Understand users’ needs and desires
– Create personalized experiences
– Take advantage of platforms people are already using such such as Facebook and Yahoo
– Code well by using the smallest routines possible, abstracting the real world, and using intelligent patterns
– Test and prototype throughout the design and development process

Our favorite examples of Sprezzatura include:
Dropbox
Zipcar
– Apple store upgrades to apps


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