I’m a big fan of the TV show Breaking Bad, the all Texan landscape and the plot got me hooked for months untill the last episode.
I’m also a fan of cars. I always turn my head for cars with beautiful and simple lines, like the italian sports coupés from the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s from Lancia, Alfa Romeo or BMW.
Well, it happens that Breaking Bad featured one of the ugliest cars ever designed and mass-produced… the Pontiac Aztek. It belonged to the high school teacher, Walter White, and helped to build his character.
No one understood what was going on the designers mind when he decided to design… that. It’s not an SUV, it’s not a wagon/estate, it’s not a sedan/berlina/saloon. And I’m thankfull we didn’t get it in this side of the pond, where Italian and German design set the tone for the all auto industry. It was built from 2001 to 2005. Was a flop for General Motors.
I have completely forgotten the subject, when recently I came across an article on Car and Driver telling a bit of the story of this car, by Bob Lutz (once responsible for the development of the Opel Ampera/Chevrolet Volt at GM).
And a sentence caught my attention as I fully agreed:
“The danger with the totalitarian management style is that people won’t speak up when there’s a problem. They’ll get their heads cut off or the messenger gets shot.”
And there you go. That’s how the Pontiac Aztek was born… everybody said: “Yes, Sir”, to a management team with a lot of wrong ideas. This is particularly dangerous in big corporations where responsibility lies in many people’s hands.
So, I was thinking. Does this apply to UX design as well? I mean, do you as a UX practitioner base your design decisions on the requirements you gathered solely and stay on safe ground? or, do you go beyond and try to push the users experience to a level they don’t really expect, but you are sure it’s going to be better for them, once they pass a quick learning curve?