Somewhere deep in Cupertino, Jony Ive is running his hands over an iPhone 8 prototype, fresh off the lathe. It’s carved in reclaimed redwood, inset with ethical ivory accents. Its face is a new, old material that’s caught his attention as of late: diamond. Of course he will have to redo the whole thing in aluminum and glass later, so some factory in Shenzhen can crap out a few hundred million of ’em for the tweens. But as he rubs his fingertips along his greatest creation to date, channeling the soft touch of lotus pruner as he inhales the intoxicating mix of endangered materials fit for an Aztec king, he’s met not with the chest swell of triumph, but a tummy burn of failure.
It still feels nowhere near as good as his own face.
This is the sad, previously undocumented phenomenon that keeps designers working through the night every night. As brought to light on the definitely-not-satirical tumblr account, Designers Touching Their Faces, designers are addicted to the feeling of their own cheeks, chins, and five o’clock shadows. And who can blame them–the face is an organic perfection, designed by nature over 6 billion years to be the perfect rest stop for a human-who-is-trying-to-look-intellectual’s hand.
But the little known secret about designers is that they’re endowed with, not any special knack for artful problem solving whatsoever, but the most wonderfully feeling faces of us all. A colleague once described Thomas Heatherwick’s face as a “wisp of cashmere that feels like pancakes smell.” One can only imagine the burden Heatherwick must face every day of his life, as the slightest scratch of a nose invokes a yeasty, syrupy reminder that his life’s accomplishments are meaningless compared to the whiskers left in the sink each morning. Luckily, another touch of the face quells the pain, if only for the briefest moment.