Journal Entry #5

“The Design of Everyday Things” is not only the title of our reading assignment, it’s also a concept that many people take for granted, or don’t put that much thought into at all. You’d probably be shocked if you knew the amount of time and research that went into designing something as simple as say, the racks inside a dishwasher. These moving plastic parts are an essential tool for making sure your dishes get cleaned appropriately.

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Many things must be taken into account: the size of common dishes, plates, bowl and glasses including weight, circumference, diameter, etc. What are all the possible combinations of arrangements of dishes? What are the most common sizes of glasses? All of these things and more must be studied and carefully measured by the designers in charge of constructing the perfect dishwasher rack.

There are only 2 moving parts inside my dishwasher that the user need worry about, and that are immediately accessible: each of the racks themselves. The top and bottom racks botch slide out on a set of wheels to allow easy loading and unloading of the contents. These racks slide outwards, towards the user, not inwards. This should be obvious, but is also clearly mapped by the shape of the racks and the inclination of the user to pull the racks towards themselves.

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Spatially, the only place the racks could logically move to is towards you. I think even a person who time-traveled here from several hundred years ago would be able to figure out how to move the racks quite easily. Even though no visual instructions exist, the orientation of the racks and the lack of space in the back and on other side give a clear signal that the racks can only move out, and then in again.

As far as feedback goes, the dishwasher rack provides it appropriately. If the top rack has been overloaded with too many heavy dishes, the rack my dip down precariously, alerting the user that perhaps some dishes or glasses should be removed. If an object in the bottom rack, such as a large pot or pan, is too big, the bottom rack will not slide back appropriately allowing closure of the door. This will alert the user to either rearrange the objects in the rack, or remove it so the door can close.

Also, as mentioned earlier, when the rack is pulled outwards, the wheels on the tracks will eventually reach a stopper, causing the rack to stop moving and alerting the user to cease pulling. When moving the rack back inside the washer, the wheels will once again stop moving, sending the message to the user that the rack is fully back into place.

There is not much room for improvement in the world of dishwasher rack design. Some things about the rack will inevitably frustrate, of course. Certain items placed in corners will often fall through the space between the plastic strips that make up the rack. Shot glasses, spatulas and mixing spoons will almost certainly find their way through the cracks unless positioned appropriately. You’ll never be able to fit all of your variably-sized dishes and glasses into the racks perfectly.

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~ by cvellis on November 6, 2008.

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