Week 1

“The hurricane is coming, you have 20 minutes, get your stuff and go. You’re not going to be saying, ‘Well, that got an amazing write-up in this design blog’” –Objectified

Good design:

For this aspect of the assignment I decided to dissect the design of the BMW experience. This is more about how I feel, or my emotional journey of starting a BMW. This is a newer car, I believe a 2014 model, which means it has cool features like pushing a button to turn on the ignition, and controlling the temperate of heated seats.

I’m going to describe a few parts of the experience:

  • Opening the car door
  • Starting the ignition
  • Turning on/controlling the A/C and car temperature
  • Switching the gears from Park, Drive, Reverse, Park

The first part of the experience which is not pictured is opening the car door. There is no traditional key, I just need to have the key on my person. I actually had the key in a pocket in my backpack and all I need to do is pull the handle on the door. It typically unlocks the car right away. Sometimes I need to take the key out and put it closer to the car if the motion sensor in the car is not working properly (I’m guessing this is what happens).

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Next I turn on the car. This is super easy and kind of amazing. There is a button behind the steering wheel, in about the same place as where you would be keys in a traditionally designed car. If you press the button without your foot on the brake it will just turn the car battery on. Meaning you can listen to the radio, but cannot switch any gears. (Seen below)

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If you want to turn the ignition on, you must press down on the brake while pressing the button. As you can see in the image below, it gives the user more information– the indication that there are more features to use now that the ignition is on.

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Now that the car is on, let’s turn on the A/C and make the car comfortable.

First control the temperature by simply turning the knob that corresponds with your location of either passenger or driver.

Driver (left)

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Passenger (right)

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Now you can control the fan.

Increase air flow

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Decrease air flow

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The buttons indicate which air direction is selected. Below it shows that all three on selected, which means the air is flowing to your feet, to your legs/lower half, and upper body.

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Finally if you want to turn on the A/C simply press the A/C button.

What is nice about all of these buttons is that there is a light indicator letting the user know that that feature is on. This is a very familiar feedback loop and even though there are many selections to make, it is simple and fast to make them.

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Now to start the car. The joystick in the center is no different than any other joystick in a car I have seen. The unique difference is the interaction. What I really like about this is that because it is a familiar design, it invites a user to interact with it. It’s likely a user knows it must move back and forth in order to change gears. However, this is different because its location is always the same–meaning to change from Park to Drive, you simply tilt it backward and to go from Park to Rear, you tilt it forward.

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Tilt forward to Rear

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Tilt backward to Drive

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And to park, simply press the “P” button on the top of the stick.

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Another example of Interaction Design I have been thinking about lately is the flow of coffee shops and restaurants, more specifically how people order food or drinks. I tend to get slightly nervous when I go to stand in line and order something. Sometimes it’s not knowing how to pronounce something, or when you have to say slightly-embarrassing names, like “FAT BURNER” or “HANGOVER HELPER”. If I am not hungover, I feel weird to order the juice named that, as it implies I am ordering it while being hungover. But this is beside the point. I also think about how an establishment designed the experience of ordering; how do they welcome people to feel comfortable ordering, even ridiculously named items?

Bad Design

At the Bean coffee in Willaimsburg here is the ordering counter from left to right. The menu stretches from almost the entire counter starting from behind the dessert display. I am pretty near-sided and can barely read any of the menu all the way to the left. The interesting thing is that the items most visible are very standard coffee shop items, Hot: coffee, tea, espresso, americano, etc. Iced: Coffee, tea, latte, mocha, etc. Although people read this off the menu, typically these are items a user already knows they want or don’t want. The Bean has a variety of innovative Smoothies, Coffee Smoothies, Acai Smoothies, Juices, and Smoothie bowls. These are also the most pricey items, yet they are the hardest to read. I can’t help but wonder why they designed the menu like this.

I am especially curious about the “Smoothie Bowls” sign pictured in the picture on the left. Customers are standing from the center to the right of the counter. If there are more than two people in line, it moves a person back even further to the right, which means by the time a person gets to the counter they might not have any clue of what to order, as they hadn’t been able to distinguish anything on the menu. Why not move the free-standing menu all the way to the right? I would be curious to learn if this would increase sales on those items.

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Bad/Good Design?

Another design I’d like to briefly discuss is the UMBRELLA. I have always thought the umbrella was such a funny thing we have naturally adopted to our society. It’s used different for some cultures, typically based on climate, as in it’s usually used to protect from rain but some use it to protect from sun. For whatever reason I still feel more comfortable using it as a way to protect from sun, even though I don’t even use the umbrella for that. Similarly to the discussion in Objectified about the toothbrush, for umbrellas, it seems that cost and advancements to the umbrella are based on the grip and also the spring mechanism used to open and close the umbrella. We all know a cheap umbrella won’t last by either the spring breaking, or the metal rods bending and no longer supporting the top cover. It’s definitely fits the bill with being a simple design, as it essentially is just a cover we hold. What I find interesting is that no one has come out with a design where we don’t have to hold the umbrella. I mean, seriously, how many umbrellas are we going to lose before someone re-designs it?

Design evolution of cameras

Digital cameras vs. Film Cameras