Tue, July 23, 2002

Make room for the bicycles

According to a July 19, 2002 press release, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will plan and build all new and reconstructed roadways with pedestrians and bicycles in mind:

Secretary of Transportation, James C. Codell, III recently signed the Pedestrian and Bicycle Travel Policy. This new policy will help guide the [Transportation] Cabinet’s evaluation of when, where, and how to include pedestrian and bicycle facilities as part of the overall transportation system. The policy guidelines give roadway planners and designers specific criteria for accommodating pedestrian and bicycle travel. Planners will bear in mind adjacent land use, existing pedestrian traffic, local bike plans, transit stops, and public input to determine the necessity for accommodating non-motorized travel.

This is great news for those that want to see additional facilities provided for bicycling, walking, running, and other non-motorized recreation. This type of planning combined with additional rail-trail development could help Kentucky build a nice interconnecting trail network.

Usability and Beauty

Don Norman is working on a new book, “Emotion & Design” which will explore the roles that beauty and emotional impact play in the usability of designs. His site has a number of essays related to this topic, including Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better. One of the interesting points raised in the essay is that we use our emotions to make good/bad or safe/dangerous evaluations of the world, while we use cognition to interpret and make sense of the world. In stressful situations, the emotional aspect of the design can improve its usability. In short, “Attractive things work better.”

Given the horrible usability of many products, it is easy and understandable for design professionals to be stuck on the basic plain-and-simple functionality and ignore the beauty aspect. Norman emphasizes that the usability is still important–this is not just about prettiness:

There are many designers, many design schools, who cannot distinguish prettiness from usefulness…. True beauty in a product has to be more than skin deep, more than a façade. To be truly beautiful, wondrous, and pleasurable, the product has to fulfill a useful function, work well, and be usable and understandable.

May we have more products that are beautiful to look at and pleasurable to use.