The KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid.
Having been a car guy and a car industry guy for so many years, I have spent time in new and different vehicles more than the average Joe. Now that I write about cars, I spend even more time in cars from all different manufacturers. As a result, I’m usually pretty adept at finding my way around a vehicle and rarely need an owner’s manual to figure out the basic controls of a car.
When I started road testing cars & trucks for The Garage, I actually thought it was pretty funny the first time I had to reach for the book to figure out how to turn on something basic like cruise control. More often recently, I’m finding myself stymied when trying to find controls without using The Book.
Earlier this week, I found myself behind the wheel of a 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML 550. When I turned on the ignition, the front wipers came on and I realized the rear wiper was cleaning hatch glass at a furious pace. Do you think I could find a way to shut it off? It was only going to be a short trip and it was raining, so I gave up looking and let the wiper wail on into a shortened lifespan.
Why is it that so many designers, in their desire to leave their mark on the creative history books, feel the need to baffle the poor consumer? If I, the guy who earns his living by farting around with other people’s new cars, can’t figure something out, how will the automotively challenged manage? Why should people have to earn a degree in auto shop to figure out the basic controls of their new car?
Maybe today’s auto designers should take a step back to the cars of the Fifties & Sixties when most cars’ controls were the same and everybody knew that you turned up the heat by sliding the lever to the red.