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The importance of thoughtful design

So doing an engineering degree shifts your perspective on the world. Where an ordinary person can look at something without analyzing it for improvements, or get frustrated at something without wanting to beat up the person who designed it, an engineer can’t. A bad design, a difficult system, a frustrating rule, doesn’t matter. They’re all up for a redesign, and I could do it better…

Plug with incorrectly spaced sockets allowing for things to be plugged in to two different outlets simultaneously.At least that’s what I like to think. I’m not arrogant enough to believe my hype and believe that I can do no wrong, but how can so many people these blatant brazen mistakes, and then let them sit for years without correction. The answer I must admit is not that I’m better than these other designers, but that it can be hard to see problems in advance, and it can be hard to correct them once they’re found, and there’s rarely enough time to THINK about the design in full.

 

Let’s take my plug here. I’m sure some engineer was happy to see this design through safety testing, and probably never even thought to try plugging a device into different plugs simultaneously. Also, if they did, they might very well have dismissed it as an unlikely event, limited by the costs to correct the issue (redoing the plastic molding and boards); they probably just brushed it off and moved along. I’ve been dealing with online application forms recently, and there seems to be a lot of, “well correction takes time,” “well making it better takes time,” “well explaining this takes time” attitude to these online systems. The system is put up, and then not corrected. Years go by, and the system is kept as is, people suffer through the system and adapt. 

This seems like a case where it’ll only ever be small errors, and they remain hidden for years. People adapt to fit the scenario, and they only get revisited once they cause problems.

Do I have a solution?

No…

Making sure you do a full working prototype can help alleviate some of the mistakes, showing your designs to a neutral party, but all I can ask is that people who design and create, revisit their old projects once they’re deployed. Find where your old designs can be improved. Share what those improvements can be so that we can all learn. If you find a system that is difficult to deal with, don’t passively accept it.