Why we should design things to be difficult to use

Something similar has happened to driving. It’s possible to hurtle down a road at 50 miles an hour without thinking at all – until it’s too late. One of the most successful safety design campaigns of recent years aimed to tackle this. The shared space movement puts ambiguity back into road use, for pedestrians and drivers alike. In South Kensington, all street furniture and crossings have been removed and replaced with ambiguous regions where it isn’t clear who has right of way. Drivers and pedestrians snap out of their trances, cars slow down and the accident rate has fallen by 43%.

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University installs prototype ‘pee power’ toilet

A prototype toilet has been launched on a UK university campus to prove that urine can generate electricity, and show its potential for helping to light cubicles in international refugee camps. Students and staff at the Bristol-based University of the West of England are being asked to use the working urinal to feed microbial fuel cell (MFC) stacks that generate electricity to power indoor lighting.

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A brief history of user experience design

Image from Henry Dreyfuss's classic text
Henry Dreyfuss’s classic text “Designing for People.”

A good primer on user experience design here by Ali Rushdan Tariq:

Think about the last time you ate at a restaurant. What cuisine did it serve?

What made you to choose that particular restaurant? What was your first impression as you walked in? Were you asked to wait till you were ushered to an available seat? How was the menu arranged? Did food come quickly enough? How did it taste? How was the customer service? Did your squaring up go smoothly? Would you go back again?

Your answers to these questions, including all the emotional highs and lows, encompass the restaurant’s user experience (UX).


Today, UX has grown into an important design discipline that continues to grow and evolve. And while it’s fairly new, its multidisciplinary history can be traced all the way back to the Renaissance—if not earlier.

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The future of design: texting cows and life-saving toilets

This cow could be texting you soon. Using emooticons, no doubt…

Immense pleasure might be derived from Moocall, a device that allows cows to send text messages to farmers. Not of the “Set me free” or “Stop squeezing so hard” kind, but an auto-alert along the lines of “COME QUICK, I’M HAVING BABIES!” Moocall simply slips on to a cow’s tail and, using gesture- recognition technology, summons the farmer when calving is imminent, saving valuable hours of hanging around waiting for the drama to start.

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Boiling point: redesigning the kettle for the 21st century

When Nils Chudy came up with the idea of redesigning the domestic kettle just over a year ago he was struck by how little this vital organ of all kitchens had altered over the years. “Five thousand images, all of the same kettle. Bit of a different shape or bit of a different colour or bit of a different material, but somehow they are all the same,” he said. Along with wanting to change the look of the appliance, Chudy, 24, a designer from Germany, had also become frustrated with the energy waste involved with boiling a kettle when only some of the water is used. The outcome was the Miito, a “kettle” on which you place a cup, mug or jug and heat the liquid inside via a rod immersed in the water (or soup or baby food).

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‘Vote British, not Bolshie’: election posters that chart a changing Britain

In a glass case on the first floor of the People’s History Museum in Manchester, there sits a pipe that once belonged to Harold Wilson. The Labour leader – who was resident in Downing Street twice, once in the 60s and once in the 70s – did not smoke it by choice. He preferred cigars. But he and his aides understood that a pipe was a signifier for authenticity, roots and a mind that would not be rushed. Every time Wilson publicly puffed away, in other words, he was indulging in the modern political game we know as spin, long before the word was ever invented.

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