I just want to cook my food

Overhead image of a induction hob. The surface is reflective black and shows the faint marking for five rings and the control dials to regulate the cooking rings.

I have always been a fan of gas hobs because once the pan is hot, temperature regulation is instant and easily controllable. I also like that you can put a wok on the largest ring and have the heat go on the sides of the pan rather than just the bottom, and this allows me to cook different foods at different times whilst keeping the already processed bits warm in the center. The gas hob also has decent sized knobs that you can grab and turn for temperature regulation. It’s tactile, it’s intuitive; the numbers on the knob are large enough and have good contrast with the colour of the hob. The symbols that indicate which knob controls which ring are clearly visible, or are even positioned in such a way that indicate which ring they belong to.

I now have an induction hob. In principle I am quite pleased with the performance of the actual cooking rings. An amount of water heats up in about half or two-thirds of the time it would take on a gas ring, and temperature control is instant, although I may have burnt the food by the time I have fiddled with the digital controls.

Every day I get into a mini-rage about those controls. The entire design of the hob surface is an accessibility Freddy-Krueger style nightmare, invoked by some smart-arse product designer with an utter disdain for users. Let’s start with the shiny mirror-like surface: nothing much wrong with that if you like looking at yourself when cooking but depending on ambient lighting conditions it is almost impossible to make out where the demarcations are for the cooking rings. They are a light-ish grey, about 1 mm thick.

Then I have the actual control interface for the rings. Same light-ish grey, with symbols for ring selection, thin-lined boxes around 3 mm square and a filled-in box for the ring selection; the dial for the amount of energy to be applied to the selected ring is designed in a similar fashion. This is a touch sensitive area.

Have you ever tried regulating a touch sensitive digital dial with wet or oily fingers?

Have you, product designer, have you?

With dry hands I need to power up the unit by pressing the ‘on’ button — easy enough. Then I need to select the cooking ring by pressing on the appropriate icon, but I have a smart cooker that senses if a pan is on a ring and will select it for me automatically (by this time the gas would already be burning, btw). Then I need to select the energy level, from 0 to 9 from the dial slider. If I don’t do that within about 5 seconds, the whole thing turns off and I start again. (This cooking malarkey is starting to feel like a game of snakes and ladders.)

If I have multiple pans on the cooker, I constantly need to juggle my digital dials by pressing the appropriate hob button, and then use the slider to regulate the energy. Imagine you have three things going, all of them ‘a-la-minute’, with butter fingers. Or try to imagine doing that with even minor motor-control issues. Oh, and if you happen to wipe your surface with a towel, because you want to keep it tidy and clean, you may inadvertently change the energy setting for the selected ring and burn your food.

By the way, all of the above is inaccessible to people with visual impairments. There are no tactile indicators that would help navigate the surface.

Thank you, product designer, for being so user friendly!

No! I don’t want some fancy digital user-useless interface that I can hardly see and is cumbersome to operate. I want knobs that I can turn to exactly where I want the heat to be, and that are arranged on the cooker in such a way that it is instantly clear to me which ring I am operating.

No, I don’t want a user-useless interface that has the logo of the maker displayed as the most important part, as a self-aggrandising symbol of smugness.

I want knobs.

I want analog.

I want a hob that cooks my food without having to perform quantum physics style feats first..

Aaaaarrrrghhh…

Bruno Maag is an expert typographer with over forty years of expertise in his field. He founded Dalton Maag Ltd, the world’s leading studio for typeface design.