“Please adjust your seatbacks and tray tables…”
I nearly jumped for joy when I traveled first class on Virgin America SFO-SEA and nestled into this baby. And not just because the seat is cushy and the drinks and movies are unlimited (although these are my weaknesses)!
Check out the seat adjustment mechanism - it is designed with real world directional - and real body - mapping in mind. Want to move your seat back? Simply move the back on the little replica body mechanism back. Want to shift out the leg rest? Move the ‘legs’ out on the control mechanism. No more trying to figure out which button or lever to move in which direction. Note also that the designer made the judicious move to include the controller avatar’s head, while the head of the seat does not appear to be adjustable; I tried it and the head of the seat is in fact non adjustable. Why include this additional small detail? Without the head, the passenger may not experience the immediate gestalt association of the controller-as-body. The designer acknowledged the sense of beauty and familiarity associated with the human form which I also appreciated with this small but innovative control mechanism.
Sometimes the power of one to one mapping is quite subtle but nonetheless genius.
The little observation also reminded me of Donald Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, an enduring read and an early inspiration for me as I started my career journey in human factors and user study. Donald Norman suggests considering one to one mapping as core user centered design principle, but rarely is it done in an elegant way, as here in Virgin’s seat adjustment mechanism.