DVTK Lexicon,

Positive Friction


Positive Friction

Positive Friction encourages an alternative design practice in order to restore human agency within online spaces. We stand for a frictional digital experience in order to explore unprecedented creative routes to escape the flaws of standardized design.

Through the recent development of web technologies, ‘digital’ became synonymous with accessibility. Design standards have been established, focusing on ‘user experience best practices’ and ‘seamless interactions’ (cf. Human Interface Guidelines by Apple). While serving efficiency, this approach drained the online world from the roughness of emotions and one-of-a-kind memorable experiences.

For those in the design world, these guidelines have deprived us of our ability to invent new forms. For users, they have led to an emotionless experience –if not abuse– when these methods, intended to provoke addiction, are nurtured by a misuse of human behavioral studies (cf. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal, 2014).

Seamless interfaces can be necessary when interacting with some services and tools, but this pursuit of effectiveness shouldn’t be the only way to design. Otherwise, we might remain in a barren world, left without any possibility for creativity and experimentation. When navigating a space designed not to make me think, how can I experience anything or feel any emotion? (cf. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug, 2013).

As philosopher Pierre-Damien Huygues said, ‘The phrase being moved used to mean being lifted out of calmness. Why would one want this today? In the absence of emotion, a sense of calm would leave someone feeling perfectly untouched, perhaps protected from trouble — yet, lifeless. Who would want this for their life — a calm that is never disturbed?’

By disobeying the digital design standards, we find room to explore new possibilities. We create surprise and we dive into the undiscovered. Refusing these guidelines, we design new spaces within which new narratives can occur, that people should take time to discover and understand. By doing so, we create a relationship with our welcomed visitors rather than creating flows to guide emotionless users.

This concept is not limited to digital spaces. ‘Positive Friction’ stems from experiences we came across through art and design

Rei Nato, Matrix (2010). Matrix is an art piece installed on Teshima island, Japan. To enter, visitors have to queue, take-off their shoes, and when getting inside the space, they can’t use their smartphones nor take pictures. Building these constraints set up the conditions to experience the artwork: eyeballs are focusing on the space rather than on the screens, removing shoes makes you more aware of where you put each foot, and you start noticing small drops of water that take birth on the concrete floor.

Rei Kawakubo, Comme Des Garçons storefront in Chelsea, NY. Designed against all standards of shop window that attracts onlookers to come inside and make purchases, the CDG store’s entrance is a mysterious hallway. Visitors should either be in the know or curious, having to enter to figure out what’s to be found inside.

Valia Fetisov, Installation of Experience (2011-2014). In the words of the artist: ‘The way to get out of the room is very simple but far from being obvious. You should do nothing; or, in other words, you should give up to get out.‘ An automatic door closes each time someone comes in. Visitors are trapped for an unknown amount of time, with no instructions for how to get out.

A password is required to enter this website. At some point, we could read: ‘search and you will find’. This instruction invites us to use our brain to explore digital space to find how to get in. For instance, one password was revealed on IG. A digital quest, how exciting!
Visit: shell.tech

This is how we have applied Positive Friction within our projects

Bottega Veneta App: In 2021, Bottega Veneta left Instagram, refusing to bind their creativity to the platform’s constraints. Social media is the archetype of seamless experience design. To live on these platforms and use them effectively, brands adapt their content to fit the guidelines imposed by these templates (creating ‘snack content’, daily posting, etc.). In contrast to social media, the Bottega Veneta app requires time and focus to be explored. It starts with a dive through a 3D tunnel. Browsing this mysterious portal, visitors wonder–where is this leading me? Our app is a portal and an initiation of a creative exchange: this entrance peaks curiosity and awakens visitors.
Discover the project | Download the app

Maia Agency: Visitors have to make a few choices before entering the website, which means many clicks are required to get access to the content. Usual UX principles would consider this a drastic break for the user, warn about bounce rate performances, etc. Eventually, this barrier to entry lets visitors take ownership of the interface and understand the agency’s positioning by interacting.
Discover the project | Visit maia.agency

Loadmo.re is a curation platform that selects websites for the post-desktop era. The websites which are listed there are only non-standard interfaces or quirky ideas that explore the possibilities of mobile interactions in an unusual way. This project has been launched by DVTK in April 2021, and we are hoping it will serve as a reference for many and inspire more unconventional designs in the digital landscape.
Discover the project | Explore loadmo.re