Reducing cognitive load

L64eggFor christmas, my delightful spouse got me an Eggbot kit. And since one of the resolutions this new year is to build kits instead of just getting them, putting them on a shelf in the basement and dreaming about how cool they would be…

The kit goes together very nicely (if anything, the instructions are a little too detailed) and every time I thought a part might be missing, it turned out that the part had simply slid or rolled under one of the internal seams in the cardboard package. And the Inkscape plugin works beautifully (and I am so happy that there is finally a new released version of Inkscape for macs that has all the features everyone else has been playing with for years).

But back to cognitive load. When I first opened the box and saw that all the structural parts for the eggbot were made from extra-thick circuit-board material, I thought “Gee, isn’t that a bit pretentious and wasteful? Why couldn’t they have injection-molded it or had it laser cut or something?” But after putting the thing together I realized that it wasn’t pretentious or wasteful; it was a choice that relieved the designers of a long list of other finicky decisions. What other material can you order so easily, cut to arbitrary shapes, with whatever holes you want, printed with dimensionally accurate graphics? Whose material properties are known and don’t have to be tested or subjected to careful analysis. Oh, and where you can include a metal heat sink essentially for free. Sure, it’s more expensive in high volume, but it’s cheaper upfront, and eggbot kits aren’t exactly a price-sensitive commodity product. So you’re saving on the most precious maker resource of all: the designers’ time and ability to move on to newer and more interesting projects.

(That lamp-in-a-hexagon, btw, is the logo of Local 64, the co-working space downtown where I rent  half an office so I can pick the brains of lots of people smarter than me.)

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