Fun fact: The Bible of Industrial Design, Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things, was originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things. Good designers must of course understand the basics of psychology if they are to design objects that people can successfully interact with.
A good case in point are buttons. An engineer might conceivably create a button that, once pressed, sends an electrical signal to complete whatever task it was created for, without confirming for the end user that the signal was sent. Any designer or design student who's read Norman's book would know better. From Chapter One's "Fundamental Principles of Interaction" section:
Ever watch people at an elevator repeatedly push the Up button, or repeatedly push the pedestrian button at a street crossing? Ever drive to a traffic intersection and wait an inordinate amount of time for the signals to change, wondering all the time whether the detection circuits noticed your vehicle (a common problem with bicycles)? What is missing in all these cases is feedback: some way of letting you know that the system is working on your request.
…Feedback must be immediate: even a delay of a tenth of a second can be disconcerting.
At The Verge Science's San Francisco offices, staffers have learned about bad button design the hard way:
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I think we can all agree that this is insane:
So here we have an example of bad design that cannot be directly attributed to the designers of the building, the elevator nor its buttons, but to whomever is in charge of incorporating the building's security systems. Or whomever controls that group's budget. Whichever it is, chances are good they've never read Norman's book, and the building's occupants experience a resultant micro-hassle on a regular basis.
If I were an omnipotent dictator, Norman would be in charge of my newly-created Ministry of Good Design. They'd have the budget of the U.S. military, and they would take precedence over every other governmental body.
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Speaking of ediditors, "whomever" should be "whoever" in both places....
Also, one of the reasons Norman liked the name "Psychology Of Everyday Things" was the acronym, POET. Elegant design does include both psychology and poetry.
Regarding the traffic signal feedback, China has addressed that problem (at least, Shenzhen had it last time I was there). All the traffic signals had a digital display with a timer that informed people the time remaining until the lights would change.
Oh boy, you definitely had some bad experiences with the engineers, you like to mention them a lot. Stereotypical designer will make a nice button that doesn't work, stereotypical engineer will make an ugly, poor button that works. I think that to be truly good at making stuff you should be both, the engineer and the designer.