"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Friday, 9 April 2010

It’s Not Rocket Science

When an item’s only purpose is purely functional, you would think that its function would be uppermost in the mind of its designer. You would think. However, thinking obviously had no part in this particular objects design or manufacture.
So, is this the worst designed object of the last decade? No, not Mr Monkey, the blue coin. Let’s consider this objects function. It is a parking token for the Clifton Down Shopping Centre car park, brought in to replace paper tickets and thus save on paper and be more considerate to the environment, a very laudable and reasonable initiative.
Now let us consider the token’s design. The token is a very light weight plastic, about the same size as a two pence piece, round and blue in colour, as you can see here with the assistance of Mr Monkey.
Thank you Mr Monkey, nicely done. Small and light weight, therefore easy to drop or let slip from the hand and not easy to hold and drive at the same time but difficult to put down in the car without losing it; round so that it will roll away if you do put it down or drop it; dark in colour so it would be hard to see under a car seat or anywhere else for that matter; and it has no time of arrival printed on it. In the interests of the environment I will forgo the printed time of arrival and accept that a plastic token will in time save on paper. However, would it have been so difficult for the token to be the size and shape of a credit card, slightly heavier and much brighter in colour? Even the token pictured on the pay machine is a bright gold.
Now when you consider the fact that if you lose the token, highly likely given its design, you have to pay £5 to replace it to enable you to leave the car park, the thought crosses your mind, well it crosses mine, that rather than it being badly designed, the token has been very cleverly designed but not for the convenience of the individual who has to use it. Instead it has been deliberately made to be lost and so generate extra revenue for the owners of the car park, who may or may not be willing participants in this scheme. A passing thought you understand, I wouldn't dream of casting such aspersions.

It’s a small thing I know and I really shouldn’t let things like this get to me but I use this car park quite frequently and therefore have to use this stupid token a lot. It’s a really badly designed car park too, for instance, the lifts don’t go to all the floors. What’s that’s about?

As a child I used to believe that mankind was always pushing forward and progressing, with each problem that life throws up being tackled and eliminated for the betterment of all. I’m sure I got that from watching Tomorrows World, one of my favourite programmes right up until my 30’s. Then they brought Peter Snow in to present it and it went downhill, fast, followed closely by my illusion that life was being made better for us all. It seems that the little things that could improve all our lives are being sacrificed by the grasping and greedy for their own ends. A not for profit lottery where all the money goes to charity? No, the man has to have his cut. A cheap and user friendly public transport system? No, we’ll just make using your car more difficult. A radio station that plays real music presented by DJs who know what they’re talking about and who don’t witter on endlessly about celebrity non-entities and reality TV? No, you can’t have that, listen to Chris Moyles instead.

I am grateful that I live in relative comfort and always have something to eat, in a land where if I have a numb toe I can be treated for it, where there aren’t armies with machetes running around killing everyone, where I can vote for a government every few years without being shot at or intimidated or have the result questioned and generally be safe and secure most of the time. I know all that and yet, and yet...that bloody stupid token drives me mad!

Suggested listening: “Nevermind” by Nirvana


  1. Gary, I know exactly what you mean !

    One thing that always bugs me is the design of the “chip and pin” machine. I’m ok with it for myself, such as at the till in Tesco ( where-else ? ….private joke for any non-family readers ) BUT what about the pensioners who use them to withdraw their pension at the post office ? The keypad buttons are relatively small as it is, but the numbers on them are therefore smaller still and not very clear. How many pensioners do you know with perfect vision ? Then there’s the screen. Very small black digital letters on a green background. I know it’s supposed to be an issue of security that will avoid someone else reading it over your shoulder, but did they even test the design on any pensioners before rolling out the device across the country? I bet they didn’t. It was probably designed by a group of yuppy twenty-somethings as part of a degree course, with no real idea of what problems the elderly have to face. At the very least, they could have made the design different for Post Offices to those of everywhere else as these are the one’s that are continually used by our aged population to withdraw their money since pension books were discontinued. You can understand why they don’t like modern technology. Aaarghh. It makes me so mad.

    Rant over.

    I, too, am grateful for where and how we live at the moment. There but for the Grace of God go I…….and that is something we will have to agree to disagree on.

    Love you always,
    Over and out.

  2. You need to get a lady purse to keep the token in. Or perhaps Mr Monkey could keep it in a little backpack for you.

  3. I got confused the other day between the token for the car park and the token that pretends to be a pound coin for the trolley and then I realised there were too many tokens in my life and I should 'get real'.