The story of a warning sign at Farringdon station

I noticed a big yellow sign warning at Farringdon Station, giving drivers an important message to do something. When there’s a message added after the fact, whether it’s hand written on a dashboard, a post-it note on a computer monitor or a big poster at a train station, it’s a usually sign there’s a design problem.
farringdon_station_warning_full
After some research on Wikipedia, the Pantograph is pretty important element of the train as it provides power. In this case, it provides power to the train outside of central London where there’s not a third rail powering the tracks.
pantograph (or “pan“) is an apparatus mounted on the roof of an electric traintram or electric bus[1] to collect power through contact with an overhead catenary wire.
So why is there a warning telling drivers to lower it? What happens if they forget to lower it? After a quick google search, I found an incident at Blackfriars in January 2014 which caused major delays after the holidays and guess which station they were coming from… yep, Farringdon!
‘Today at 10am a Sevenoaks-bound service broke down at Blackfriars railway station after one of the pantographs, used to collect power from overhead lines north of Farringdon, hit the ceiling.
Interesting that a simple warning sign at a station has a much bigger story.
With thoughts of designing experiences and users not reading anything, I question the effectiveness of a sign and trusting that the train driver will read and respond to it every time. It may provide a short term fix but ultimately this needs to be incorporated into the design of the trains and the platform to prevent the train from continuing when the pantograph needs to be lowered.
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Thinking human – observations of physical and digital experiences

I had a moment of inspiration this week for a new name for this blog: “Thinking Human”. It describes my design approach: solving human problems by understanding human needs. Through design observations in this blog and my work as UX designer and developer, I’ve learned that great physical and digital experiences are created when humans are at the centre. Often we get it the other way around and create technology that’s not based on a real human need.

My goal is to learn. Through this blog, I will capture my observations from a human perspective of good, enjoyable, well designed experiences as well as poor, annoying, badly designed experiences. By writing about my observations and deconstructing designs, I hope to learn the genetics of good and bad design.

The featured image is my first made in Adobe Illustrator

Affordance of Woodside Library’s Card Scanner

Affordance

At a very simple level, to afford means to give a clue (Norman, 1988). When the affordances of a physical object are perceptually obvious it is easy to know how to interact with it.

Don Normans’ Design Principles

The library card scanner in the San Mateo County Library in Woodside, CA where my parents have moved to, is a good example of Don Normans design principle of Affordance. It guides the user on how to operate the scanner by showing an image of the library card and exactly where to hold it so it scans.

Great idea!

Capturing My Design Observations

Design Observr is an intersection of three of my interests:

  1. Observing – observation, details, visuals, detectives, sherlock holmes
  2. Design – experiences & ux, usability, accessibility, visual design, interaction design
  3. Writing –  stories, creative writing, descriptions

I’ve had an interest in design and user experience for a number of years which has manifested mostly into my projects at work. I’ve done a lot of reading about web design and UX on sites like smashingmagazine,  a list apart, lifehacker and following design blogs on twitter.

Learning design through reading is a good introduction as there are a ton of resources, too many in fact, to stay up with as I found out. The next step for me is getting my hands dirty.

This is blog is about learning design through capturing my observations and deconstructing designs into their elements.