Abstract vs Concrete

I think abstract is dead and concrete is in. I am biased its my style, I am a survivalist, if I could build a shelter to protect me from the impeding zombie or alien invasion I would 😉

Technology companies and their expressions

Do you remember those websites from technology companies in the 90s’?  For me they seemed to love the abstract.  It felt like technology people were leading web development and to a degree they were. Admittedly the technology did not make it easy.

In a recent gig I worked on creating a new web site in which the aim was to  show off the people. This was a professional services company and most business development relied heavily on contacts and relationships.  In effect people were buying these people and their brains.

Technolgy companies who offer faceless applications make me sad and very unlikely to trust them. All these applications that you should make my life easier and make me efficent seem to be lacking the human story, they are/were abstract and expected me to understand their ‘clever’ context.

I think showing a technology in action in is a way to help but you need to show what it does for a person, its more concrete and less abstract. Don’t talk about it show it.

The need for speed

We are in a world that ‘requires’ instant gratification. We have become impatient.  Whilst we can Google anything we don’t want to unless we have to. We want to click and swipe less. We are being bombarded with thousands of messages every day and we start to ignore or even deny the existence of the things too big or complex for us to understand. To understand something that is abstract takes longer than something concrete, in part because we have a framework to reference. Coming back to gratification we generally know that if something is concrete it is more likely to gratify us quicker than an abstract thing.


There are a bunch of successful logos, but I think the ones that are really succesful come from something that actually exists.  Yes we can train our brains to fill up the brand cup and understand the values and their brand promise but in the end I think the journey is quicker and more complete if the thing actually exists. And maybe the more common it is the more reminders you will.  I think designers can be so ‘clever’ that they are the only person who understand what they have done.  This may miss the opportunity to ‘educate’ a viewer about the company and its values.

Company Names

There was a horrible stage in human history where we decided to reduce company names to acronyms. OMG the letters.. What is more disturbing is the number of North America tech startups that are repeating this era.  It makes me want to give free branding consulting.  Ok why is it bad?, enuff screaming already.. You are expecting the viewer to know or care, to work out who you are and what you are about.  Yes a logo can ease this journey.  But a society where instant gratification is driving force or goal, people will make a judgement in the first few seconds if they want to engage, consider it like dating, you know straight away if you are physical attracted to someone, it is no different with Logos and names.

Choice limitation

As our lives and choices become more complex we often looking for a simply journey or option. If I want Orange Juice I just want orange juice and the packing that can help me a quick simply choice will win. I DO NOT care if it has 15 features, I want to know it is orange juice the real shit not the frozen from concentrate shit. Make it simply.

Its got legs, Spock..

For a while we consumed and created media in abstract environments e.g. office desk, office chair, computer and monitor. Yet we are starting to bring those devices into new spaces and out into the world..  now they are travelling with us rather us travelling to them..

Visual Thinkers

We are already this, but we are starting to use it in more mediums and ways. Cinemas, Television, Videogames, WYSIWYG Interfaces, smartphones, they have all infected us with their UX ways.  First they had to train us how to use their interfaces.. Now we are needing less and less training.. in part what was once abstract is now concrete and we have learnt more in UX into lean into what is ‘natural’ for humans.

Tactile Thinkers

Our entire body is our biggest sensory organ.  We started with abstract controllers and now we are going back to basics.  We got diverted with Keyboard, Mouse, Talbets, Palm Pilot, and now we are waving our figures and hands and legs around to control devices (with iPhone, Kinect). We are starting to control, and engage with real and virtual environment through more concrete controllers.


For some of us where concrete ends and abstract starts maybe further along a scale.  I reckon those who have taken their education and learning to higher level through books/web or higher education will see somethings that are abstract to others, as concrete to them. I think the human mind will allow you to build a tower of babylon into the skies, built on partly concrete and abstract to understand something out of the reach of others.. Maybe that is what genius is the ability to exist in a world entirely of abstract concepts.. But I am guessing that this is still a minority in our human race.


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