Elevator Design Rooted in Deception

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 paragraphs 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."

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the disabled "door-close" button is just a North American phenomenon.

    Here in Hong Kong, the "door-close" button really does work on all the "lifts" (elevators).

    In fact, its common courtesy to close the doors so that passengers don't have to waste that extra few precious seconds waiting for the doors to close themselves.

    The door-close button is visibly the most worn down button in any elevator.


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