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Industrial Design

Another profession whose expertise is sought for help is industrial design. This older, well-established profession is skilled at creating objects in three dimensions that fit your vision, your body, and—especially—your hands. In general, industrial designers do excellent work, and their sins are those of omission rather than commission. Industrial designers are trained to create buttons, knobs, and controls that are easy to feel, manipulate, and see. However, they are not specifically trained to satisfy the demands of cognitive friction, or to work with software engineers. Like the buttons in the remote keyless entry system described in Chapter 2, “Cognitive Friction,” the buttons are instantaneously recognizable as buttons, even by feel. Their physical use is intuitive, but their logical use—their metause—remains as unclear as ever.

The five remote-control devices on my coffee table, taken individually, are nice enough, but collectively they make my home-entertainment system largely unusable. Although they are sensuously curved and attractive to look at, you are hopelessly lost when you need to change the channel or mute the audio in the dark. The industrial designers who designed them satisfied the demands placed on them by the equipment vendors, but they did not satisfy the interaction needs of the user.


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