An example of a visual object that is fairly common but is not designed well is the traditional strand of Christmas lights. The problem with Christmas lights comes when one of the bulbs burns out and the user needs to figure out which one it is.
The issue in the design comes from how the light bulbs are wired. All of the bulbs are connected in series, one after another. If any of the bulbs goes out, which is to be expected after a certain amount of use, the path of electricity is interrupted and the rest of the bulbs also turn off. Since all of the lights have gone out, there is no way for the user to know which bulb is actually broken in order to replace it. They then have to infuriatingly replace bulbs one by one until they have found the broken one. Although newer varieties of lights have improved this issue in their design, many people still have old strands and have the same major problem.
The Christmas lights design issue is similar to many of the issues described in the Norman reading. Foremost, it is similar to many of Norman’s issues because of the feelings of frustration that can be caused for the user (Norman 2). Additionally, Norman pointed out several essentials that need to be present in a design to make it easy to use, and some of these are absent in this particular case. One of these features was visibility, meaning the user must be able to look at the object and visually receive the message about what needs to be done (Norman 4). Christmas lights do not have any visual cue for the user to determine which bulb to change. Similarly, Norman mentions that objects should have natural signals that can be easily interpreted by the user (Norman 4). The darkness of the bulb should be this natural signal, but the rest of the bulbs also have gone dark, so there is no way to tell. Norman also pointed out a reason for why many design issues occur, which is that the designer has to face numerous competing influences when they design their product (Norman 28). The reason why the Christmas lights are designed this way is most likely because the designer decided to value cheap production over usability.
I would argue that Christmas lights provide enargeia, or vividness, to their user. The purpose of the lights isn’t to provide anything that actually impacts a person’s wellbeing, but rather for entertainment. The lights are there to give pleasure to the person seeing them, give them a sense of wonder, and to convey the significance of the holiday season through what is being seen visually, which are all components of enargeia.