Artemy Lebedev

§ 110. Dividing by two as easy as changing channels

November 21, 2004

Any interface is twice as complex as it can be. Therefore it can be made twice as simple as it is.

As an example, let’s take a very simple interface: a sci-fi remote control from an advert of the RBC-TV channel.

An advertisement of RBC-TV. Maria Voznesenskaya, 2003

Despite spelling and punctuation mistakes, the designer’s idea is as plain as day: with the advent of the new TV channel RBC-TV, it’s all a businessman will ever need. To emphasize the fact of sufficiency, a remote control the businessman is holding was made as simple as possible.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire


Host: Now proceeding to one more milestone question. Your correct answer will bring you a guaranteed $32,000 in cash. Are you ready?

Major Charles Ingram: Yes, I guess.

Host: It’s for thirty two thousand dollars. Good luck, Charles.

Major: Thank you.

Host: In a lackluster advertisement by RBC issued in 2003 to advertise its newly aired TV channel RBC-TV, a remote control had a power button, a button with the RBC logo printed on it, and the sound volume button. The question is: If the remote control has the power button, and there’s presumably only one TV channel available, then what is the RBC button for? A: The power button was not a button at all, it was a fleck on paper; B: the power button serves the purposes of décor; C: the designer forgot to remove the power button; D: nobody knows that.

Major: I strongly feel it’s D.

Host: Is that your final answer? Remember it’s for $32,000.

Major: Yes, I think so.

Host: Are you 100% sure?

Major: Well, the power button has too positions: on and off.

Host: Okay.

Major: The RBC-TV button that the businessman is about to push has two positions, too: RBC on or RBC off, otherwise why make another button and not just emboss the logo on the remote control?

Host: Right.

Major: What we are seeing is in fact two power buttons, a big and a small one, sharing the same function. Why it is so—nobody knows that.

Host: Alright, let’s see what the correct answer is. A—it’s a fleck—is not the answer. And B—the décor purpose—isn’t the answer. The correct answer is, weird as it may seem, D—nobody knows that! The money is yours. But we don’t want to give you that!

The Major proved smart enough to answer the power button question. But once we’ve said that any interface can be made twice as simple, let us have a look at the sound volume button. You don’t have to be Major Ingram to hit the right answer to the question “Why is the button placed vertically, while the sound volume pictogram is placed horizontally?”. The correct answer is: ask me another.

On the button, the plus stands for the tallest bar in the pictogram, the minus—for the shortest. Why this double marking? The answer is: ask me another.

As you see, we’ve easily made both logical zones of the remote control twice as simple in a twink!

Now the reader may exclaim in wonder: RBC, what a great remote control have you got!

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