Airplanes : Sailboats :: Mobile : Desktop

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 26, 2014 from 1:30 – 2:15pm in B301


What if the way that airplanes were designed and how it improved sailing had some deep lessons around the future of user experience? Sailboats improved significantly after the discovery of flight, and mobile design is improving a great deal of user experience as well. How can we think about applying these lessons? What's still missing?


We’ve used boats for thousands of years, and using sails as a means to propel those boats are just about as ancient. But for a good many of those thousand years, the sails weren’t.. perfect. You could only sail in certain directions when the wind was running a certain way, making navigation a high art – how else were you supposed to be able to get back to where you started? Sailboats hit a new level of technical sophistication when another method of propulsion became viable: airplanes.

Airplanes applied all of the physics around wind dynamics and fixed wing principles, and those principles carried back into boats. Nearly a hundred years after the discovery of flight, the last America’s cup racing sailboats look more like airplanes than they did the last two thousand years of sailboats.

Fast forward to a different field entirely: user experience. In less than 10 years, designing for mobile has overtaken the two decades of desktop design. But similar things are happening! Mobile design principles are improving desktop experiences all over, and it’s continuing as a rising class of ‘wearable user experiences’ come to the front. We’ll go through where we’ve been, the historical context around airplanes, sailboats, and how this applies to modern user experience design, and what this might mean for open source.


historical user experience, storytime, WORLD PEACE

Speaking experience

All of the OpenSourceBridges! Except for the first one.


  • Biography

    Life rocks everyday of the week. Add in web development, open source and stir for a good time. Cloudminer. Drupal’r. Mimosa Engineer.