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Design matters (7): Death by PowerPoint

Design / information architecture / clarity, simplicity and focus matter a great deal – probably more than you think.
Highly recommend the whole of this post by Jamie Thomas (link below).

Foam falling during launch was nothing new. It had happened on four previous missions and was one of the reasons why the camera was there in the first place. But the tile the foam had struck was on the edge of the wing designed to protect the shuttle from the heat of Earth’s atmosphere during launch and re-entry. In space the shuttle was safe but NASA didn’t know how it would respond to re-entry. There were a number of options. The astronauts could perform a spacewalk and visually inspect the hull. NASA could launch another Space Shuttle to pick the crew up. Or they could risk re-entry.

NASA officials sat down with Boeing Corporation engineers who took them through three reports; a total of 28 slides. The salient point was whilst there was data showing that the tiles on the shuttle wing could tolerate being hit by the foam this was based on test conditions using foam more than 600 times smaller than that that had struck Columbia. This is the slide the engineers chose to illustrate this point:


NASA managers listened to the engineers and their PowerPoint. The engineers felt they had communicated the potential risks. NASA felt the engineers didn’t know what would happen but that all data pointed to there not being enough damage to put the lives of the crew in danger. They rejected the other options and pushed ahead with Columbia re-entering Earth’s atmosphere as normal…

Jamie “mcdreeamie” Thomas – Death by Powerpoint

P.S. Jamie is a doctor, and his podcast is called “Take Aurally.”

More on Design:
Design matters: refrigerator control dial
Design Matters (2): badly designed Android Bluetooth menu
Design Matters (3): Ingenious board game tile holder and embodied memory
Design Matters (4): a recipe for trouble
Design Matters (5): the information architecture of a water dispenser
Design matters (6): Bosch hand-blender attachment
A well designed paper bag from Waitrose
Postbox: good info
Design Singapore: Changi airport (1)
Structure Counts: Information Architecture reading list and who’s who
Steve Krug on Simplicity

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