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Design Critique: Products for People

Encouraging usable designs for a better customer experience.

May 19, 2008

Talk about a longitudinal review: 12 years and over 273K miles! Tim Keirnan offers a single-point perspective on owning his Saturn SC2 coupe, which Saturn iterated to a point of near-perfection for Tim's car needs back in 1996. Saturn "refreshed" the model from 1997 onwards and it was never the same. Mechanic Jake Huey and automotive human factors engineer Ken Mayer join Tim inside and outside the car for a thorough discussion of Saturn's innovative designs for the 1996 SC2.

* Lost Foam Casting of the engine for smaller size and more accurate tolerances

* Polymer plastic body panels for dent resistance, rust prevention, easy maintenance, and end-of-life recycling

* Superlative UI design on the dashboard gauges, heating and cooling system, radio, and even the engine compartment (so owners and mechanics can reach the most frequently-serviced parts quickly)

* "No haggle pricing" and no-pressure dealership experience

* Terrific fuel economy (40 mpg at 55 mph, 36 mpg at 70 mph) (manual transmission)

The customizations Tim and Jake did to the car used parts from the following sources that can help anyone's car perform better as stock parts wear out:

* Eibach springs at

* KYB struts at

* K&N intake filter at

* Centerforce clutch at

The larger-diameter cat-back exhaust system for the SC2 is no longer made, but anyone can commission a good (mandrel-bending) local muffler shop to fabricate something suitable.

We will have an automotive user experience panel discussion later on to continue our look at car customer experiences.

Finally, the international Usability Professionals Association conference is coming up! See