Saturday, February 9, 2013

R.I.P. John Karlin, Human Factors Pioneer

On the same day as the blizzard called "Nemo" blankets the Northeast, a story about the life of a User Experience pioneer was published in the NY Times. John Karlin worked at Bell Labs in New Jersey for 32 years, and in that time helped to develop products that the masses could easily use. He is responsible for the touch tone phone design and he put the white dots inside the rotary phone to increase usability after the labels were placed on the outside. The story that jumps out at me was the UX guerrilla tactic he utilized when there was a question about shortening the phone cord. While the debate was going on, he surreptitiously removed an inch of cord from co-workers' phones every three days. They didn't realize it until a foot had been removed, ending the debate, the long meetings and arguments with everyone with a strong voice and opinion. What a great example of Lean UX.

He is also credited with creating the very first Human Factors Department in a U.S. company. UX Professionals owe him a bit of thanks. He died on January 28th at the age of 94. Rest in peace.

Here is the full story:

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