Well designed public spaces can significantly change our cities. This is a great post by an ex-colleague Shreya that analyzes a public space in Bangalore, pointing out positive elements of design.
Originally posted on Brave New Cities:
About a year ago, I happened to buy a book called “The Design of Everyday Things” by Donald Norman for $1 at a garage sale in Brooklyn, and it serendipitously turned out to be one of the books that have most influenced how I view design until this point, not even excepting anything written about or by Steve Jobs. The basic premise of the book is that a well-designed object is one where the designer genuinely considers how humans interact with physical objects, and through this consideration, designs the object to do a few essential things: first, the object immediately communicates to the user the conceptual model of how it works through the design. So a door ought to communicate whether it should be opened by pushing, pulling or sliding. In other words, the conceptual model of how the door works should be evident in the design. Second, an object should provide feedback to the user. So for example, if you click on the x at the top left of a Windows OS program, the system immediately provides feedback, asking “do you want to save before you quit.” If there was no feedback at that point, that usually equals disaster. Third, the object should provide constraints that provide clues about how to use it. For example, data readers ought to be designed such that you can only insert a card one way and not the other. And finally, affordances: while it is possible for the floors of overbridges to be made of glass, it is generally not advisable because glass doesn’t denote the stability users expect of a bridge. DOET also emphasizes that the most important thing to focus on when designing an object that is user-friendly is to observe. When a user fumbles with an object, the first instinct ought to be assume that the object is badly designed and to observe exactly how the object is causing trouble for the user, not to assume that the user is stupid or slow, because well-designed objects are by definition idiot proof. Anyone can use them without any external guidance or help. It may seem impossible in some cases, but it really isn’t. Consider how Apple has made it possible for both my grandmother and my 1 year old niece to use an iPad without any tutorials.
This was a long preamble, but now I’ll get to the point. Last week, I happened to walk to the MG road metro from Cunningham Road in Bangalore, and chanced upon *gasp* a well-designed public space in Bangalore! It’s the elevated pedestrian walkway leading up to the metro. The designers of this space thought about so many things that no one seems to have thought about in the myriad other public spaces I have seen thus far in Bangalore. Because I’m in the business of observing public space, and I can literally point to a bunch of things in the following photograph that I haven’t seen anywhere else in India, except maybe the Delhi Metro. So, here goes:
1) The lighting! It’s well lit and feels safe and secure for a pedestrian. Note the single woman walking high above the street, in a situation where there are no “eyes on the street” (because it’s elevated and that you might think was isolating and scary but simply doesn’t feel that way!) There are other situations in Bangalore where elevated walkways have been a disaster and usually a site for muggings, but not here.