The Importance of Abstraction

Look at WordPress. All grown up… knowing it’s place. WordPress excels highly in one area: abstraction. The content is kept completely separated from the design. The result is that at will, a designer can completely recompose the look and feel of a site without affecting the content. It’s a concept that doesn’t quite exist in the print world. Print pieces are finite, they have a well-defined end. They are doomed to an eventual output.

The first time I truly understood the concept of Abstraction was in college. A professor discussing the idea brought to the table the thought of a driving a car. The systems involved in powering a modern automobile are truly staggering. A multitude of computers monitor and adjust countless systems. Checking to see that the incoming oxygen levels are adequate and adjusting fuel levels to ensure efficient combustion takes place. To the driver though, it’s a simple turn of the key, putting the transmission in drive and pressing the gas pedal. The driver doesn’t care, or really need to know exactly what is taking place behind the firewall. And so we have abstraction. The need to know.

On the internet, we have a countless array of devices through which content can be consumed. Desktops, tablets, phones. In WordPress we write the content once and install plugins to handle the tablets and smartphones. Without much thought, we’ve effectively abstracted the stream of thought into the medium of our choice. Nobody needs to know that the article was originally written for print, or for a computer, or for a tablet, and nobody cares. The information comes through, whatever channel the consumer chooses. It’s simplicity is almost stupid, and it’s reach is unparalleled.

But how does it translate to print? You receive a catalog, it has a pretty picture, and a few descriptive words. Maybe it has a QR code that you can scan with your phone, and launch a video to further tempt you to buy the product. From the site, you can click a “ShareThis” button and share it with your friends on facebook, or twitter, or ICQ if you’re so inclined, and you dont’ feel the need to know how it works. you just know that it does.