There just might be a word for this in German

originally posted in the Bastion blog

Pivot. The word itself just looks like something that is not that nice. It sounds as if it might be a part of a ship or a donkey harness used in the Pyrenees in the late 17th century. Or maybe it came from the medieval German for “painful but necessary reconfiguration”.

Pivots in the software business are likewise not glamorous. They are often disappointing and generally uncomfortable. They generally mean that what you were doing didn’t work. Sometimes the pivot is okay and a nice surprise, and you can find yourself where you might have ended up anyhow, but most of the time it doesn’t seem that way.

I made some software because I wanted to write a new type of book. One book to be exact. One book, that is supposed to be funny, about a siege, in 1683. I started off with just trying to get this book actually made and out there in the world where people would actually read it. I thought designing an app for this one book was the obvious way to go about all of this.

But then I realised that I made a thing that can be for many books. But many of a certain type of book, and digital books at that. I’m still not sure how I feel about this sort of thing.

No matter what you think, the people using your thing will use it different. This is extremely frustrating, because not only do you have to change things, and you know, listen to other people, but you are pointedly reminded that you are not the genius that you think you are. You put a lot of thought, energy, sweat and pain into a thing that you think is amazing only to find that its not what you want it to be.

After talking to a bunch of people and even having some government funding to look at the market for multi-perspective, interactive, digital books about sieges in 1683, it soon became apparent that what I had been doing might not work. I could not invent my way out of centuries of publishing no matter how clever I was or how innovative this thing was and it was likely to die a long, slow and quiet death in the App Store. I soon realised I was stumbling into being a publisher of sorts, when all I wanted to do is write and make some books.

There doesn’t seem to be any other way of doing things besides trying and no book, blog post or whatever I’ve read has in the end taught me as much as just talking to people and trying things out. You learn things by talking to people not by talking to yourself, which is what most designers do. This is because we think we are smart. But how people use things is a process, and nobody, including the designer, knows the answer until its done. This is very hard thing to do as a designer - to let go, and to let that painful but necessary reconfiguration happen.

Bastion is all about learning, not just that it can be used for education, but because making it is also nothing but learning for me. You go, you do, you learn. Repeat.