"This Light Takes Forever" - design commentary from unlikely sources...

Randall Munroe's xkcd, "a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language," probably doesn't intend to have insightful commentary on product design and use in the real world - but, like any English major worth his salt (um, I'm not an English major, by the way), I'll feel free to BS all sorts of meanings into it that the author never intended. In this episode, a driver gets his wish - to meet "the idiot who designed this intersection" while sitting out an interminable red light. Read the comic - then think about that double punchline:

1) "You can't. Light's red." The design of products around us can influence our behaviors beyond what we might expect, or what might even make sense. Don't fling someone into traffic (very bad thing) because you can't break a red light (less bad thing)?? And yet, we empathize with this limitation, because to a certain extent, and inexplicably, we share it.

2) "Well, when will it change?" "Tuesday." A caution to designers, that especially when you base your decisions on rigorous research, testing, simulation, and so on, you can be blinded to the fact that the design just might not pass real-world, idiot-test muster.

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