Undo / Ctrl

Speculative Design
Read Time
4 Min Read
Jun 29, 2020
Undo / Ctrl

The crowd went up in celebration. Ecstatic fans cheered on. This team had done something that nobody had thought about before. The move was risky, but they pulled it off. What a stroke of genius! They would go down in the history books as innovators of the game.

No matter which sport came to your mind, we have all experienced such an event. The higher the risk, the more rewarding the maneuver. The player did it because he/she knew, what’s the worst that can happen? Failing and trying again! And their real genius lay in the fearless confidence of taking a high risk when it mattered the most, without worrying too much about the chances of failure.

Our digital lives through smart interfaces have made this philosophy of trying without fearing failure accessible to all. Unlike our education where we were penalised for our errors in examinations, our digital devices give us an opportunity to try infinite times.

Every time we play a video game, if we fail at something, and lose a life, we respawn.
  • If we make a mistake while typing a story, we can always delete and restart.
  • When sketching on an iPad, you can draw a million times and undo till you reach the perfect stroke.This extra layer of assurance gives us the confidence to do something crazy. Try something that we wouldn’t have otherwise. We do it because we know, what’s the worst that can happen? We’ll fail and try again. This is the power of the ‘Undo’ button. It gives us the courage to realise our dreams.

But on the other side of the spectrum is real life, where actions have repercussions. We need to take our choices seriously when we know that we don’t have a safety net.

If you have a Plan B to fall back to, you will never give your Plan A your best shot.

Hence, we put our mind and heart into everything we do. We do it because the worst that can happen is causing permanent damage. This is the power of the ‘Ctrl’ button. It gives us the wisdom to not be reckless, and be in control.

Having an ‘Undo’ mindset is powerful. It is what makes us do things that we would have never thought of. It silences our primal instinct of fear and caution —
Fear of trying out your idea.
Fear of expressing your feelings.
Fear of letting go.
Fear of failing, losing, embarrassing, being sad.
Fear of living.
What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll fail and try again!

The ‘Ctrl’ mindset has it’s own beauty. Away from the dreamylands, reality follows the chaos theory. Every action has a consequence, either immediate, or eventual. You can’t just, do things for the heck of it.
Each thought you think,
Each word you speak,
Each action you do,
needs to happen with giving it your all, like it’s your final chance. There is no trying. Think it through.Your choices today are seeds for the trees of your future.

As designers, we constantly ponder on how the experiences and rituals we design affect the larger fabric of society. With our digital behaviors merging seamlessly into our real world-
Is the “undo” button making us more courageous or more mediocre?
Is the “ctrl” button making us more driven or more anxious?
Does the world we design need to be more forgiving or focused?
What determines failure — the outcome or intent?

Both these approaches have their own benefits. But we feel the real magic happens when we marry these two concepts. At the conjunction of these buttons, lies the river to our dreams.

When we started our studio, it was indeed a huge leap of faith. Each of us gave up on amazing opportunities that we could have had. But it was a choice. And that was the only time to make this choice. We went in with the ‘Undo’ philosophy. Once in, we switched to the ‘Ctrl’ mode. We had no backup plan to fall back to. Hence we gave it our all. We poured our heart and soul into it. And it has been the greatest leap of faith for us all. This is the answer to all our decisions and dilemmas. Go in with ‘Undo’ , and stay with ‘Ctrl’. Choose what you would do, if you had an actual ‘Undo’ button in your life. But once chosen, give it your all.

Take control of the boat, steering it carefully in the ocean of uncertainty. Not only does this help you choose a life you wanted to always live, but to take responsibility for it, and ensure that it doesn’t fail. Taking risks without the determination to see them through is like sailing without the sails.

Maybe Studio Carbon as a team would go on and do something nobody had thought about before. Maybe people around the world would cheer us on for pulling off a risky move. Appreciate our stroke of genius. Or maybe our boat will sink. What’s the worst that can happen? But what if we do good work like there is no other option, if we take control of our decisions and eventually our boat. Just imagine…

What’s the best that can happen!

P.S. —
What would you try, if you knew that you would never fail?
How hard would you try, if you knew it was your only chance?