Not the Jeremy Bentham you're looking for.

UTILITARIAN: “of or relating to or advocating utilitarianism”

UTILITARIANISM: “a doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; specifically: a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” – Merriam-Webster.com

Corporate Americans love philosophy. We try to make our software agnostic, our designs minimalist and our business plans conform to a schema. Bookshelves and Kindles must be bursting with Russell, Van der Rohe and Kant! Cogito ergo vendo!

Add Jeremy Bentham to that library, because managers love utilitarianism! You know, the philosophy that promotes policies proffering “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”* What? That’s not what you meant when you demanded the website have a “utilitarian look?” You meant you wanted it to be functional but not florid, easy to use but not necessarily pretty?

Oh, pardonez-moi! And here I thought you were asking for a site that offered navigation and interface that appealed to the greatest number of potential visitors, which is actually a noble goal. (Except that we fired our user experience architect, figuring the sales manager could do her job.) No no. What you meant to say was “I want the site to be minimalistic.” Ha. Just kidding. What you want is to fire your creative director and get your UX expert back. Then you’ll have what you want. Won’t be pretty, though, especially with what you’ll have to pay her.

– Otto E. Mezzo

*What Bentham actually wrote, in his preface to A Fragment on Government, is: “…it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong…”

One thought on “Utilitarian”

  1. Ha! Good article. I didn’t know that about “utilitarian” or “minimalist.” It’s not going to stop anyone, except maybe me,

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