I really enjoyed reading this. As I’ve always been in search of what does it mean to design something and what’s the real difference between good vs bad design.
It was wonderful to read his assessment on how doors and switches are actually badly designed at times. Because in his observation, when there needs to be a visual aide or some kind of an instruction (i.e. push, pull, on, off), the design is flawed. Just a lot of excellent observations on the most simple things around us are actually badly designed.
I’d also like to add to that the cultural aspect of some of these (badly designed) things get even more complicated. Cultural differences and practices has an impact. Different countries have different ways of doing things. So yes I did relate to his example of the subway doors in Paris. I don’t think it’s badly designed, it was just something I wasn’t used to. It took a few seconds for me to realize I had to physically open those doors because I saw how the handle would turn. Also I couldn’t figure out how to flush the toilet inside the Air France plane. It took me several minutes to figure out it’s just a button which was on the side against a wall, that I mistook for some kind of a light function. Again, it wasn’t badly designed, it was just not something I’m accustomed to. Meanwhile, we have a lever here in the states.
Japan was probably the worst, because there was a gadget for everything. There was a switch for opening the blinds, turning on the television, how to dim the lights and control the temperature. They had instructions, but when you’re fighting jetlag and can’t find the English version on the little tiny booklet amongst seven languages, you tend to give up. But I’ve been washing my hand with shaving cream which I thought was soap, because well, it was in this ulra modern liquid soap canister and it was right next to the sink. So instinctively, I thought it was soap. One would think.
I do agree, certain things that look simple do get complicated or overly designed. And when you are not accustomed to a lot of things, it just gets even worst, but not because it was badly design, sometimes it’s just user error.