The terms “calm computing” and “calm technology” were coined in 1995 by PARC Researchers Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown in reaction to the increasing complexities that information technologies were creating. He felt that the promise of computing systems was that they might “simplify complexities, not introduce new ones.”
Weiser believed that this would lead to an era of “calm technology,” in which technology, rather than panicking us, would help us focus on the things that were really important to us.
In 2015, Amber Case dramatically expanded on the concept of calm technology by writing a book on the subject, as well as defining the core principles of calm technology. These principles are now in use by companies all over the world.
Principles of Calm Technology
Technology should require the smallest possible amount of attention
- Technology can communicate, but doesn’t need to speak.
- Create ambient awareness through different senses.
- Communicate information without taking the user out of their environment or task.
Technology should inform and create calm
- A person's primary task should not be computing, but being human.
- Give people what they need to solve their problem, and nothing more.
Technology should make use of the periphery
- A calm technology will move easily from the periphery of our attention, to the center, and back.
- The periphery is informing without overburdening.
Technology should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity
- Design for people first.
- Machines shouldn't act like humans.
- Humans shouldn't act like machines.
- Amplify the best part of each.
Technology can communicate, but doesn’t need to speak
- Does your product need to rely on voice, or can it use a different communication method?
- Consider how your technology communicates status.
Technology should work even when it fails
- Think about what happens if your technology fails.
- Does it default to a usable state or does it break down completely?
The right amount of technology is the minimum needed to solve the problem
- What is the minimum amount of technology needed to solve the problem?
- Slim the feature set down so that the product does what it needs to do and no more.
Technology should respect social norms
- Technology takes time to introduce to humanity.
- What social norms exist that your technology might violate or cause stress on?
- Slowly introduce features so that people have time to get accustomed to the product.
You can learn more about Calm Technology at https://calmtech.com/
You can also order Calm Technology in book form here.