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Everyday cooktop design
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
When Austin was in grade school (he's now a senior at SF State), I took him to hear Don Norman speak at Cody's Books in Berkeley. I did not want him to go through life blaming himself for mistakes made by designers. Don's canonical example of design gone wrong was the typical configuration of controls on a cooktop

You'd think even the slowest designer in the pack would figure out that it's best to mirror the layout of the burners in the layout of the controls.

When Don and I met last week to talk about informal learning, I was quite interested in the look of his stove. This is what I found:

I chuckled. The stove had come with his condo. Don pointed out that the knobs for the back burners were slightly closer to the back than those for the front. Better this than controls in a straight line along the side.

One of Don's sons works for Toyota. In Japan. Don told me how new management-track hires are brought into the company. First come two months of classroom. (Oh, no, I thought. I didn't want to find out that the world's greatest automaker relied on formal instruction.) Then came two months working on the assembly line. (Whew.) After that, two months selling for a dealer.

Don was going to make a presentation to Toyota's senior board, so he invited his son to attend. He didn't want to take part. How would this look? Dad twists his arm. As participants arrive, cards are exchanged. Don's boy pulls out his card. It is the dealership's card. No printed name. Snickers and chuckles. Then one executive says that he sold cars at that dealership when he first joined Toyota. Another inquired which plant Don's son had worked in. That exec had worked on the same line. He was one of them; the top and the bottom of the organization were members of the same community.

More to come...


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