The value of analogue thinking in a digital-first era.

Troop Analogue Hero

In our rapidly evolving digital-first era, the term ‘analogue’ might seem a little old hat. However, the straightforward, sequential nature of analogue thinking remains incredibly valuable, particularly in the realm of product and service development. 

The following highlights how, amidst digital advancement’s relentless march, the principles of analogue thinking, characterised by simplicity, tangibility, and direct interaction, offer insights and solutions that are as relevant today as they ever have been.

Digital’s relentless creep into everyday life

One area that has seen significant transformation due to digital advancement is car design, and that’s most notable to drivers in their interiors. 

The era of switches and dials has given way to large touchscreens, apps, and software, and the drive to digitalise the interior has been relentless. But fundamentally, this shift means we’ve lost the tactile responsiveness we once had with our vehicles.

Take climate control. Previously, you toggled a switch to power on and off, and used dials to adjust your fan speed and temperature. You could operate these controls without looking, keeping your eyes on the road. Touchscreens demand visual attention, reducing control precision and taking your focus away from driving. 

Technologically advanced this may be, but those changes highlight the trade-off between the drive to innovate and the simplicity of the analogue solution that came before. 

Back at home, smart lights have become commonplace, and the straightforward ‘on-off’ switch we’ve been using since Eddison turned on the first electric bulb has been replaced by Bluetooth and WiFi control, offering a myriad choice of colours and intensity if you have the time to master the accompanying app.

It’s the same with hardware and software. Think about Apple, highly regarded for its beautifully minimalist design. Previously, their customers could upgrade memory or replace batteries themselves. Troubleshooting software issues was also manageable for most, as the terminology was intuitive and settings were found just where you’d expect, meaning customers could find and apply solutions independently. 

Apple’s relentless pursuit to expand, control and lock down its infrastructure means for users, complexity now reigns. What’s so beautiful and minimalist about that?

The trend is also seen online, where websites used to deliver what you needed, when you needed it. From their appearance in search results to the on-page content and supporting functionality, they ensured you found what you were looking for and got what you needed with minimal clicks. This was once considered best practice.

However, we now find ourselves navigating a world filled with pop-ups, requiring click after click as brands battle to cross-promote, upsell, and capture data.

Effortless Simplicity

We live in a complex world, and digital approaches can bring endless opportunities. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be like this. 

What’s better? A perfectly tactile analogue switch that lets light brighten up a darkened room with a satisfying click, or an app (or voice) enabled digital bulb that trades instancy for ultimate control? 

Each has merit.

But in all of this, we need to remember effortless simplicity: in many moments, that’s what’s most important to our users. 

Analogue thinking helps us focus on just that.

Co Contributor – David Eccles
Image – Jenny Ueberberg @Unsplash

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