Telstar Logistics Senior Automotive Analyst Phil Patton has written an illuminating article about the visual design of in-car GPS navigation displays.
The visual systems used by different manufacturers differ widely, of course, which creates interesting tensions between issues of visual appeal, useablity, safety, and vehicle brand-consistency. Patton mines that tension with his typical intelligence:
That danger created by the conflicting worlds of map and reality has increased, thanks to the very attractiveness and style of the improved screens. The problem lies in the possibility that, as Tom Vanderbilt put it in a recent piece in Slate, “drivers, lulled by the richness of the visuals, might begin to focus excessively on this detailed, unscrolling world to the exclusion of other events.”
The world seen on the screen risks becoming more attractive than the one seen out the windshield, but then that is the threat posed by all media if abused. “You can make the same argument about any technology,” says [neuroscientist Coliin] Ellard. “Television can be educational but it’s not good to watch it 16 hours a day.” TV brings us more sports to watch than ever -- and reduces the time we put into real sports. Audio guides in museums can distract from seeing the art before us. Our lives are full of technology like this. Navigational guides may be the same way. We build clever model worlds to help us figure our way in the real world, then we forget the difference between the two.
IMAGES: From top, nav systems by BMW, ???, and Cadillac. Photos by Phil Patton