Week 01 HW: Love/Hate Relationships

 Object I’ve fallen in love with:

I had to go back in time to pick an object that I’m truly in love with. Other than my laptops, iPhone and the NYC transit system (which all receive honorable mentions in the “Frustration” section), most of my non-door related interactions are digital. I wanted to avoid a purely digital interface interaction for this section in order to focus on the physical. One really nice side note with current interactions is the Touch Bar volume control on the MacBook Pro.

The reason this delights me so much is that for months I thought you had to tap the speaker button then move your finger to the slider that appears in order to adjust the volume or brightness.

Recently I discovered that this was incorrect. You can actually leave your finger pressed and then slide to adjust the volume, as if the slider appeared under your finger. It’s quite beautiful and elegant. (Although it possibly begs the question as to why it doesn’t simply appear under your finger.)

What I want to talk about here, though, is possibly the epitome of game controller design, and one that used to be in my daily life: The Nintendo Gamecube Controller.

Looks-wise, it’s so ugly it’s cute, almost like a pug dog or the A-10 Warthog airframe.

Its appearance, though, is a direct result of putting user-focused design front and center. The controller fits in both large and small hands perfectly, with ergonomic handles that setup your thumbs to rest perfectly on the buttons (something current controllers struggle with).

Most controllers also have a nondescript, uniform button layout. For example, the Playstation controller:

This can make it difficult (especially for non-gamers) to know what button they are pressing. The Gamecube controller makes it apparent, both in sight and touch, as to what button or button group you are using.

It was also just a “fun” controller to use. It felt sturdy and the buttons had a great response to being pressed. When the controller was first announced, the lead designer at Nintendo said that he wanted to make a game that just used the big green button because it felt so satisfying to simply press it.

Object the frustrates me:

Most of my biggest frustrations these days are software-based. How come Windows doesn’t boot-up reliably when I open my laptop? Why do the subway “Time Until Arrival” signs not give accurate times? Why in the world does Apple’s Music app not have a “Recently Played” section and no tracking of “Just Played” songs? My most frustrating physical experience currently is my Keurig Coffee Maker.

The machine itself is fine and the instructions are straightforward: Push power button, fill the top with water, open latch, insert K-Cup, close, press brew, and after the coffee is made, it auto turns off. The problem appears if you miss the “push power button” step. 

If you turn it on after you load it, the device doesn’t know that you’ve added water or a K-Cup: You are required to go through  the motions with the device again. It’s surprising at how annoying this can get through repeated mornings.

The simple fix is to add sensors to the K-Cup holder and the water container. These wouldn’t have to be complicated, just a simple switch that is depressed when a K-Cup is inserted and possibly one attached to a float for the water. The power button could also, instead, be connected to lifting the K-Cup latch.

Even if only the K-Cup switch was added, it would eliminate re-interacting with the most manually intensive and “most likely to break” portion of the device, the latch. They probably made this design decision in order to cut costs – and that’s something I realize every other morning when I make the same mistake…



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