Here’s one design gripe, handily illustrated for your blog-reading benefit. Though we hold a special place in our (cold, black) hearts for Washington DC’s Harry Weese-designed metro system, which comprises 86 stations built in the Brutalist aesthetic with domed concrete ceilings, the Metro’s interactive design sucks. Since metro fares differ according to distance traveled, there is no common price for a ticket, and users are required to figure out the toll (adding $0.10 to what’s listed on the chart on top), enter a numerical value, and go through several other steps to obtain a ticket. The picture above illustrates how the various steps are delineated in horizontal fashion, but from a vantage point of standing six inches in front of the machine, it makes little to no sense. Luckily, DC metro riders have more patience than their New York counterparts.
We could go on “fugging” design but figure it’s more constructive to consider better ways of covering the topic. One idea: perhaps it’s a matter of quantifying, not just qualifying, good design. Take, for example, the news that The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is switching its standardized computer font from Arial to Century Gothic, which uses 30% less ink and will save the college a ton of money on printing costs. That is compelling from a design angle (fonts! we love ’em!) and has real-life utility.
For more Lange, read her archived articles from New York magazine, ranging from Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion houses to the Betsy-Tacy books.