These Lego control panels will teach you all about physical interface design
Lego has a two-post brick with a 45 Â° slope that is used as a control panel on various vehicle kits, from automobiles and underwater craft to alien shuttles. George Cave, Senior Interaction Technologist at KISKA in Salzburg, Austria, put together 52 different Lego control panels and used them in a excellent mini course in physical interface design.
Here is an exerpt:
Differentiation of inputs
What could cause 400 WWII pilots to lift the landing gear of their B-17 bomber just before touchdown? Catastrophic driver error, or something more basic?
It was psychologist Alphonsis Chapanis who first suggested that the high rate of collision landings could be the fault of poor interface design. The landing gear and adjacent flap control knobs had the same shape. The pilots never had a chance.
His temporary solution was to stick rubber bands of different shapes on each switch, allowing blind operation with just one touch. This gave birth to the idea of ââshape coding and a system of differentiation still in effect in aircraft cockpits today.
We can compare the three interfaces [at the top] to see this in action. Ignore the general layout, it’s the differences between the individual switches that matter here. Imagine trying to feel one of these pimples without looking. The left panel (“Slope 45 2×2 with 12 buttons”) would require careful hand-eye coordination. The right panel (“Aircraft Multiple Flight Controls”) clearly distinguishes between the throttle (large vertical linear movement), toggle switches (vertical round stroke) and push buttons (square push button).