I bought a bus ticket online a few days ago. It was pretty simple- choose when you want to leave, give them your credit card number, and voila, you’re on your way.
I went to the bus station and showed the ticket I’d bought on my phone. The ticket man then tells me to go to the ticket counter to have it printed before I can board the bus.
So I go to the ticket counter, and they tell me I have to go to a specific bus-line stall to have my ticket printed.
I arrive at the specific bus-line stall to have my ticket printed. I make a comment about how much easier it would be to just accept tickets bought online. The bus-line man responds with obvious irritation, “It tells you to print the ticket on the email. That’s just the way it is.”
He wasn’t completely wrong- it did say you must print the ticket, at the very bottom of a really long email. But he was absolutely and profoundly wrong when he stated with such certainty, “That’s just the way it is.”
Maybe the planets of our solar system just “are”, and maybe the fact that people don’t live forever just “is”, but everything of human making was designed, and saying “It’s just the way things are” is an abdication of our collective responsibility to make things better.
I know this bus-line guy didn’t design the nation-wide ticketing system at fault here, but he is still complicit in a kind of crime- the thievery of time and comfort from the thousands of people who use the same service I did.
This is not an over-dramatization. Bad design can also kill people. Car crash deaths have steadily decreased over the past fifty years due to concentrated effort my manufacturers to design safer cars and by lobbies, insurance companies, and law-makers to design a better system to catch more drunk drivers.
Good design brings us closer to what we want. Bad design pushes us further away. Design is not just aesthetics. Sometimes design is a process. Sometimes it’s a habit. But it’s always creating to improve, and is there a more noble cause than that?