I want to look at specific part of chapter 5 in The Design of Everyday Things. This chapter focused on human error, how it happens, and how we need to examine it.
There was a paragraph that really stood out in my mind because the logic in it is so basic and the design is somewhat complex but I never noticed it or thought about it.
Cars provide a number of examples of how design relates to error. A variety of fluids re required in the engine compartment of an automobile: engine oil, transmission oil, brake fluid, windshield washer solution, radiator coolant, and battery water. Putting the wrong fluid into a reservoir could lead to serious damage or even an accident. Automobile manufacture try to minimize these errors (a combination of description and mode errors) by making the different compartments looks different– using different shapes and different-size openings-and by adding color to the fluids so that they can be distinguished. Here design by and large prevents errors. But, unfortunately, designers seem to refer to encourage them.
Think about the amount of effort that goes into differentiating the different fluids and the systems in a car, as well as the overall impact that it has on the lifetime and performance of a car. But when we look at it we don’t really appreciate it in the least.
However this system to prevent human error probably saves car owners millions of dollars a year yet we don’t consider the impact of the logic that went into this design. Reading that paragraph totally floors me when I think about the impact that such simple logic has on our quality of life.
The thing is I think that logic gets ignored a lot when people begin to design complex objects, you know what I shouldn’t even say complex, when people design anything. So much thought is given to looks and performance that simple things that have a massive impact are often just kind of skirted over.
For example my apartment has a open winding exposed staircase that runs along the main hallway of my house, the entry do the stairs is totally open. In the middle of the night you could totally misstep while walking along the wall and tumble down the stairs. An extra foot of wall would totally prevent this but because the home’s designer wanted to show off part of the stair case I have a massive health risk every time I have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Logic needs to dictate design.