Most of the work I’ve done in my career has been on contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. The rest has been in major industries like oil and gas production or automobile servicing. It’s all very serious work, and there can be serious consequences when something doesn’t work the way it should. John Hillabin wrote an interesting article on Cracked.com titled 6 Disasters Caused by Poorly Designed User Interfaces. Despite the author’s snide attitude, the presented examples are quite sobering. The article acts as a good introduction to the topic, and I’d encourage you to explore the sources that the author links to, as they provide much more discussion, detail, and additional examples.
You’ll find similar examples in Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, such as the tale of Lockheed L-1011 on page 44, Korean Air Flight 007 on page 129, and two more on page 130. It also reminded me of one of Bruce Tognazzini’s posts from June of ’99: When Interfaces Kill: What Really Happened to John Denver.
Interaction design isn’t just about iPhone apps and internet shopping. There are critical systems that are in serious need of good design. It isn’t sexy work, and I’ll never get to present it at a conference, but it sure is making for an interesting and fulfilling career.
If you are interested in this type of career, get in touch. We’re currently trying to fill a couple positions in the D.C. area.