Coffee makers might be the end of me. I’m not even talking about the kind with the filter, I’m talking about the Keurig kind where all you have to do is put water in and put a pod in the front and you’re ready to go. So, if they’re so simply, why may they be the end of me you ask? Because my coffee cups never fit in the designated area. And if they do, chances are I’ll only get 3/4 of a cup of coffee. I’m a sophomore in college. I NEED MORE COFFEE. The solution to this problem is pretty simple, make the little area where you put your cup a little bit taller. I can’t be the only one who wants to fill up their travel mug on the way out the door but instead has to fill up a regular mug first then poor it into the travel mug. Not to mention, this significantly cools down the temperature of the coffee (not in a good way) before I’ve even had a sip of it.
In this post, I’m going to discuss how Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things, is able to explain the way that manufacturers have learned how to design products for us, the consumer. Obviously they don’t always work and could usually improve vastly with just a few modifications. For the most part however, the products that are placed in front of us are they way they are for a reason, whether we like it, or notice it, or not.
Before I talk about anything else though, I need to say one thing: Don Norman can see the future. On page 34 of his book The Design of Everyday Things, Norman discusses how phones and watches have become more and more advanced without necessarily looking it. This quote is what has me so convinced that he can see the future: “Now imagine a future where instead of the phone replacing the watch, the two will merge, perhaps won on the wrist, perhaps on the head like glasses, complete with display screen. The phone, watch, and components of a computer will all form one until.” THE APPLE WATCH PEOPLE!!! Just a year after Norman republished his book, the Apple Watch came out. Seriously, this guy is either a genius or he can see into the future or he has some secret source of intel from an Apple insider. We many never know.
For the most part, I enjoyed this reading particularly because I found that it related to my life. My dad is the most technically challenged person I know. Honestly, he calls Comcast if he can’t figure out how to do something on the TV. The idea that products are developed with the consumer in mind and that the way they are presented is strangely revolutionary to me. It makes complete sense that you would design a product to that it is functional, appropriately priced, and looks “pleasing” to a customer but I know that when I’m at the mall and I pass the Apple store, all I’m thinking about is the fact that I am familiar with the brand, that they are reliable products, and that I want one. Doesn’t matter what it is, I want it.
Signifiers also fall into the category of things that are designed for the benefit of the consumer or user without them actually knowing it. Door handles for instance. They seem like they should just… be there. How else would you open a door? But according to Norman, that is exactly the point. Door handles and knobs are placed on doors to signify to us, subconsciously, that they are to be used to open the door. These signifiers allow us to function in society without looking like idiots every time we run into something new. And let’s be honest, we all do stupid stuff on a pretty regular basis so as far as I’m concerned, anything that helps me reduce the number of times I make a fool of myself is something I want in my life.