Monday, February 23, 2009

The Complaints of Future(and Current) Designs

Commented on:
Devin McKaskle
Adam Griffin
Patrick Surber

Thats what Donald Norman's "The Design of Future Things" felt like to me. Okay, so that may have sounded a little harsh, but I couldn't help but felt that this whole book was his way of letting the world know of his discontentment with the way designers are approaching problems of today and tomorrow.

Now, onto to the good stuff. The book does contain several good points regarding the errors of design and how they pose potential problems in the future. Autonomous and augmentative machines are two separate but similar implementations of technology that will impact our lives more and more in the future. His story of the vehicle assistance system seemed scary, yes, but considering its rarity, the design might not seem so bad. There is an acceptable error margin for everything and already this system is working better than the Ford Pinto ever did. Perhaps a better question that should be answered before designing is a clear separation of the tasks that SHOULD be automated and augmentative. Some things just weren't meant to be done by machines alone. If efficiency and ease are the main focus of these tools, then to relentlessly pursue a certain technology regardless of the outcome should be unacceptable. His argument that the smart homes will take over seemed too early. He underestimates people's reluctance for change from something they're familiar and comfortable with. Slowly these technology will be integrated into our everyday lives, but the magnitude of this change will be small and slow enough that it'll allow people to adapt and designers to improve so that the potential problems faced by current designs will never be fully realized. Aside from design problems, many obstacles stand in the way of the deployment of the said technologies. Despite the decrease in production cost, many items are simply too expensive to be embraced by the mass public. 10 people might buy a fridge that'll tell you what to eat, but 1000 will buy a fridge that doesn't do anything more than keep your food cold. In such a situation, are the problems as alarming as it could be? The marketing teams of manufacturers will come up with ingenious ways of diminishing the effects of bad designs. Norman suggested that what he insist isn't perfection from the designers, but rather, just to consider the rules he has established in the book. I think a designer should avoid compromising a device's functionality by designing for the lowest common denominator. A reasonable expectation should be set for the consumer and user of such items. Overall, the book was an easy read and fairly enjoyable!

P.S. I think Norman would like Wall-e. Wall-e is awsome!


  1. You make some good points. I'm not sure I agreed with his story about the cruise control. I'm sorry, but I drive using it allll the time. The only difference is that mine doesn't slow down when I get too close to a car, or speed up. I have never forgotten I was using it. I think he was just being careless, and that isn't the fault of the designer.

    You're right about the smart houses too. The book talked about ONE person's home that he designed. It will be years before we see any of that. Like you said, it will most likely be a gradual change.

  2. I agree that most people will not pay extra money for a fridge that tells you what to eat. I didn't think of that while reading the book. Now I'm thinking that even though there will be a market for the bossy fridges, I'm sure it will be a small section of people. My guess is that it will be the same ratio of people who pay more for organic foods.