Let’s start by cutting a few corners. It’s a good thing, right?
Last year without impunity or fanfare the Toronto Transit Commission (the TTC) cut off the corner of their monthly passcard; their beloved Metropass. The design improvement was meant to assist people to pass it through the reader more efficiently at the turnstile. I often wonder if the average public transit commuter even noticed it or gave it another thought.
This simple enhancement made me consider how conveniences such as these are continually implemented for the purpose of increased productivity.
The most obvious place I can think of this happening is in the automobile.
Today’s advanced technology allows us to see behind the car, assist us with parking (in some cases), automatically adjust lighting and turn on the wipers when it rains practically helping you drive the vehicle. In some ways the advanced skill in driving is slowly being eliminated.
Is that in order for you to have a better driving experience?
The reason for the cut in the TTC Metropass is said to reduce the time people spend fumbling the card around at the turnstile.
The angle points forward. Slide it through. Basta!
It was actually styled after the cards prepared for the CNIB to assist visually impaired passengers. A very intelligent decision. The universal change offers the average rider a convenience that makes their lives that much easier.
It is a brilliant improvement or simply another step closer to The Machine Stops?
Why permeate thinking with redundant activity?
In conversation with some friends recently we were discussing how technology has increased the rate of learning their children were experiencing. We all laughed when one of my colleagues mentioned that his daughter was questioning the need to learn advanced math because it was much simpler to use technology to find the answer. She argued that her time could be better spent learning new ways to apply technology to solve more complex problems. She suggested that computing power is there for us to utilize so why should we not continue to have it serve us, allow us to figure out further advancements and leave the basics to the machine?
Sure, a slightly myopic view from a child but an interesting point when considering how technology permeates our daily lives. Kids are fully immersed and expect technology to simply work and be readily available.
Regardless, having an understanding of how technology affects us is one thing but without education we are certainly doomed. I am sure my colleague has instilled a clear sense of the importance of the basics of education in his daughter.
How does technology affect the space you inhabit?
The conversation about how technology influences our lives got me thinking about how technology affects a designer’s influence on space. As designers of physical space we can no longer avoid considering current and future advancements of technology, their impact on space and how we use it. It has to permeate our thinking. No longer can we consider technology as an add-on or a nice to have. It now needs to be inherent in how we design space because it is a big part of how people experience space.
Personally and as a consumer I have noticed it’s not often that advancements in technology are front of mind anymore because of the innate nature of how it weaves into our daily lives. It seems to be an expectation. Technology is now part of us. It makes our lives easier, simpler and takes away the tedious nature of mundane tasks.
Good or bad it does the math for us and will continue to do so. Here are a few observations that I bet we all hardly think about and some questions to get you thinking about how future technologies might affect space further.
- The TTC Metropass. Swipe. How is the swipe placed? What’s coming? Scanning a barcode on your smartphone? How will that change terminal design?
- The movie ticket. When is the last time you stood in line to buy a ticket? Do you use a kiosk? Scan a barcode? How will the entrance sequence to a theatre be affected?
- Office security. Do you still use a key? Will our phones be the keys of the near future?
- Computers. How few corporations aren’t using wireless now? How does that affect desk space and your workspace? What changes when you can work anywhere?
- Banks. If you actually go into one anymore there is the ATM. Banks are now moving toward a retail experience. What other technology is woven in that you don’t realize? Do you interact with technology before a person or instead of a person?
- Grocery stores. Self-serve check outs. No more errors. No more fuss. What does that do to customer flow? How does your experience change?
- POS terminals. They are everywhere. Retail, restaurants, gas stations. It’s easy to spend money. They come to you now. Does that change how much you tip when you do?
- The interwebz. In the web world we are always talking about making navigation easy for people. It is generally how we evaluate the design of a site; simple, easy to use and effective. How often do you shop on-line now?
If any of these examples are lacking, complex and not easy to understand or use we move on.
Am I on the right track here?
When we consider the design of physical space we have to think about how these common advancements affect the attributes of space. We have to understand how current and emerging technologies will affect the user experience. Technology changes the approach we take to physical space design right down to the colour of the walls, selection of materials and as fundamental as the configuration of a room.
We all need to be nerds and geeks.
We have to get it when it comes to technology.
We should understand how advancements in technology have the potential to change how people use space and we have to encourage our designs to respond to that. If we aren’t considering it we are late.
Very, very late.
Over to you:
How has technology affected your daily life? Has it made your life better? What challenges have you experienced? Does technology and the space it permeates work in unison?