Inventing on Principle – Bret Victor

This is a great talk, full of clever ideas and inspiration.

Bret is a natural speaker, and here he’s talking about the importance of finding a guiding principle for your work, using the example of his own principle (that ‘creators need an immediate connection to what they create’).

His blog is worth exploring too. So far I have enjoyed his idea posts on tripphrases, inline spellchecking, and a paper on graphical interfaces for information software:

In this paper, I suggest that the long-standing focus on “interaction” may be misguided. For a majority subset of software, called “information software,” I argue that interactivity is actually a curse for users and a crutch for designers, and users’ goals can be better satisfied through other means. […]

Although this paper presents a number of concrete design and engineering ideas, the larger intent is to introduce a “unified theory” of information software design, and provide inspiration and direction for progressive designers who suspect that the world of software isn’t as flat as they’ve been told.

I need to re-read this a few more times to digest everything, but I particularly liked his suggestion for graphical ‘whiskers’ to indicate the distribution that makes up a 5-star rating. For example…

  • This 3-star book was judged unanimously to be middling:
  • Whereas this one was loved and hated by its readers:

Bret Victor –


Here is a JavaScript implementation (on Github) of the book/code interface used in the talk, created by Gabriel Florit.

Update 2012.04.11: Here’s another implementation: The Frogatto editor. See for more information about this open source game/game designer tool.