Elevator Design Rooted in Deception

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by: Ilya Vedrashko

A fascinating reading for experience designers comes this week from The New Yorker that has obtained and published time-lapsed security camera footage of a man who, in 1999, spent 41 hours stuck in an elevator, and accompanies it with a detailed feature about the history and specifics of the "vertical transportation" industry. The article also has a few great paragraph of observations on human behavior and how elevators are designed to accommodate for it:

"Smart elevators are strange elevators, because there is no control panel in the car; the elevator knows where you are going. People tend to find it unnerving to ride in an elevator with no buttons; they feel as if they had been kidnapped by a Bond villain. Helplessness may exacerbate claustrophobia. In the old system—board elevator, press button—you have an illusion of control; elevator manufacturers have sought to trick the passengers into thinking they’re driving the conveyance. In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works. (It does work if, say, a fireman needs to take control. But you need a key, and a fire, to do that.) Once you know this, it can be illuminating to watch people compulsively press the door-close button. That the door eventually closes reinforces their belief in the button’s power. It’s a little like prayer. Elevator design is rooted in deception—to disguise not only the bare fact of the box hanging by ropes but also the tethering of tenants to a system over which they have no command."

Original Post: http://adverlab.blogspot.com/2008/04/elevator-design-rooted-in-deception.html