Tag » interesting

Jaguar Design

This post about Jaguar’s new Concept XF is a good example of why I love car design — so much thought has to go into every little detail. Next time you’re driving at night, try to recognize cars from the shape of their headlights. You’ll be surprised at how easy many brands are to spot.

In other news, the new Jaguar XK is stunningly beautiful.

Can designs be too clever?

Can designs be too clever?

The History of the Button blog has a really interesting post on a seemingly smart, but ultimately confusing elevator design. Is it possible for designs to be too clever for their own good?

Dealing with the user’s ingrained expectations is often a dilemma when trying to innovate: do you create something that is novel and potentially confusing, or do you conform to the user’s expectations? Often, an idea will be a clear improvement on paper, but the user’s habits will in practice prove an overwhelming barrier. This is particularly true when the interaction is almost subconscious, as in the elevator example linked to above.

When a novel design provides significant new value, users may be willing to invest some time and mental effort to learn new behaviors. Many people are willing to learn how to use a navigation system, as it makes life so much easier. Nevertheless, designers should work to minimize these switching costs by providing adequate explanations (preferably in context, not tucked away in an obscure manual), adhering to usability conventions as much as possible, and using methods such as progressive disclosure.

Of course, the most revolutionary designs are those that innovate in a way that is so intuitive that they behave exactly as the user expects them to — even though the interaction is completely novel. Automatic transmissions are a good example of this — they are clearly simpler to use than their alternative. Not to use a tired example, the iPod’s scroll-wheel also springs to mind. It remains to be seen if the iPhone lives up to expectations, though usability expert Bruce Tognazzini has high hopes.

I’ve touched on this subject before: elevator algorithms

The design of the Wii

Nintendo’s site has a series of good interviews with the designers of the Wii. There’s a lot of material there, and of course a fair amount of self-complimenting, but the first two volumes (hardware and remote) are well worth reading. In other news, I still really want a Wii.

Is simplicity overrated?

Don Norman and Joel Spolsky think simplicity is overrated, which has led to a flood of responses. I highly recommend spending a few minutes exploring all of this, most of the posts are short and well worth reading. In summary:

I think what Joel is saying is that you need features, but they need to appear simple to the end users.


Watches at 10:08

Have you noticed that watches in advertisements are often set to 10:08?


Superlions of Botswana, an amazing story of evolutionary adaption. In the same vein, an article on the evolution of a lactose-tolerance gene in East Africa.

Don’t screw it up, nail it.

Who’d have thought you could design a better screw? Turns out you can. In fact, you can even design a better nail.

Starbuck’s mugs

Terrapass thinks Starbucks should shift to ceramic mugs. While I think the brand argument is a good one, the table-turnover point blatantly ignores the customer’s needs. Of course, ultimately it probably comes down to the cost calculation. In other news, Starbucks has put a substantial amount of effort in designing a cup with recycled materials.


ZipScribble is a nice visualization of US zip-codes.

Is it useful? Probably not. But it sure is surprising and interesting, rather like a fractal image.