Lindy Effect & Design Tools

Today I tried out the prototyping tool called Axure RP, for a few hours, just for practice. It kind of blew my mind. For designing previous products, I have always used Sketch + InVision (and Adobe Illustrator in early learning phase). And played a bit with Facebook’s custom made Origami.

I was delighted by the things you could do with this prototyping tool. It’s not the easiest to use and does not look ‘cool’ (versus, say, Sketch or even the Adobe suite). In fact, it looks uncool, a bit ‘industrial’ – which makes sense given that it was made in 2002, when the design world was quite different. The makers were developers, and you get that impression from using the tool. This product was not made by designers (To get a sense of cool and sexy design tools, just have a look at Framer and InVision).

Yet, the un-sexiness is strongly offset by capability. I can now imagine how much time I could have saved (and product capabilities I could have created) had a used such a powerful tool.

And while new design tools are coming to market, I am wondering if the Lindy effect will operate here. The author Nassim Taleb talks about this phenomenon:

Lindy is a deli in New York, now a tourist trap, that proudly claims to be famous for its cheesecake, but in fact has been known for the fifty or so years of interpretation by physicists and mathematicians of the heuristic that developed there. Actors who hung out there gossiping about other actors discovered that Broadway shows that lasted, say one hundred days, had a future life expectancy of a hundred more. For those that lasted two hundred days, two hundred more. The heuristic became known as the Lindy Effect.

In other words, ideas have increasing life expectancy with time. Books by Shakespeare are 400 years old, hence will last 400 more years, while something like ’50 shades of Gray’ will be soon forgotten. The VC Chamath Palihapitiya also alludes to this idea applied to businesses.

Here’s my little theory about company value creation. The faster you build it, that is the half-life, it will get destroyed in the same amount of time. And so when you think about a lot of social businesses, that’s played out. And when you see what sort of the tops are like, does it take, eight, nine, ten years to build a really great consumer business? It’ll take 8, 9, 10, 12 years to destroy it.

Applied to design software, this implies that tools like Adobe Photoshop (now more than 25 years old) and Axure might last for another few coming decades, while we don’t know about the newer ones.

I don’t know what will happen, but it’s interesting to see how this will play out. Meanwhile, I am happy to be delighted by seeing that there is so much room to learn and create.

Notes:

  • You can find a rich discussion on prototyping tools here.
  • I have also been playing with other ‘old’ Adobe products and their possibilities delight me.

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