Sunday, November 11, 2012

Designed to Annoy

After writing about Design for Assembly, Design for Usability, Design for Accessibility, I thought of writing about a design that I found very annoying.  

I recently rented a Toyota Yaris.  It is a sub-compact car and hence has a small windshield.  What struck me was the design of the windshield wiper.  The Toyota designers used a single 4-bar mechanism to incorporate the windshield wiper.  The design is so bad and the wiper arms are so huge that it obstructs the view of the driver more than the passenger.  Not that anything should obstruct the view of the passenger riding along with the driver.  This is what the driver sees while driving in the rain.

For a tiny windshield, there was no need to use such high gauge sheet to create the arms.  At the very least, the pivot could have been on the passenger side so that the driver saw just the swing of the arm.  Or, have a single arm pivoted in the center and not use a 4-bar mechanism at all.  There are so many ways to make this design unobtrusive and much more streamlined so that it doesn't distract the driver.  Sure, at high speed, it is barely visible, but at lower speeds, it is glaringly visible.  A few moments after I started driving the car, this was the first thing that I noticed.  It is so annoying that I had to take a pic and write about it!

This got me thinking about what constitutes good design.  Here is what I came up with, in no particular order:
  • A good design should be innovative
  • A good design should be intuitive
  • A good design should be simple
  • A good design should be aesthetically pleasing (especially consumer products)
  • A good design should be unobtrusive.  The user shouldn't even know it exists, unless one of its purpose is to make itself known
  • A good design should be minimalistic
  • A good design should be functional and useful
  • A good design should be green (environmentally friendly)
  • A good design should be durable
Designs that live by these principles will always be classic and admirable designs.  And this wiper design barely follows any of these principles.

Friday, November 9, 2012

RIP Rosetta Stone?

Microsoft Research has done it again.  Check out this video on how their research software recognizes spoken English and transcribes it.  And then, translates it into Mandarin text arranged in the correct order.  In the end, the software translates his spoken English into spoken Mandarin in his own voice and tone! 

All in real time!  Amazing.

Incorporate this into your cell phones and all you need to know is one language to be a global citizen!