How good design costs jobs

Stephen Baker

As I reached the exit Newark airport long-term parking lot, I pulled out my credit card and tried to figure out how to put it in the machine. There's a diagram of a card, but does the black magnetic stripe go up or down? I never can tell. Luckily, there was a woman working the booth. She opened the window and instructed me.

"I never can figure out which way to stick in the card," I said, feeling dumb.
"As long as it's hard for you," she said, "I'll have a job."

It struck me. Earlier that day (before several hours on the tarmac at O'Hare), a woman at Continental had instructed me how to use the "automatic" machine. (I didn't need her help quite as much.) But the point is that lots of people owe their jobs to bad design--confusing instructions and diagrams.

Perhaps the most prominent case of this are the armies of accountants and consultants who owe their livelihood to the miserable design of our state and local tax forms.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.