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A paragon of design and user experience — the Spanish parking meter

In the mainstream, we commonly admire the design works of luminaries such as Apple, IDEO, Frog Design and, well, why not — Makalu Interactive. But there are others out there, designers flying way below the radar, who equally deserve our admiration and respect — including the gifted ones (elegantly named, “Grupo Setex”) who designed the Spanish Parking Meter.

Pour a cognac, put on some Vivaldi, and spend some quality time soaking in the inspiration:


Grupo Setex designer, Juan Ive, speaking at the 2011 Lowest Bidder conference explained in an authoritive-sounding Spanish/British accent:

When we looked carefully at the common parking meter, we thought, “It’s just too simple. People aren’t spending enough time truly getting to know it.” Thinking outside the box, and inspired by Microsoft, we worked hard to obscure the inherent simplicity, through carefully crafted layers of complexity.

Our use of five colors, seven font sizes, obscure symbols (even we can’t remember what that thing next to the “1” label is), repeating sets of plus/minus controls, and the mysterious “A/1” button, work together to ensure that no user will get a ticket out of this device in less than ten minutes (if at all).

We’ve heard it’s the talk of the town — I think we nailed it!

Since they installed these monstrosities around Marbella, I’ve been watching, and I’ve never seen a single device able to produce such a fast and consistent response among its users — The Contorted Face of Confusion.


Although not design related, the kicker is the pricing — 30 minutes for 30 cents or, get this, an hour for 70 cents. Think about that. And, finally, what I just discovered today — these machines will happily take your money on Sunday, without advising you that Sunday is free parking day in Marbella. Brilliant.

Published inDesign


  1. Johnny Johnny

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen many meters (in large metropolitan cities) without any notice of free parking on evening and/or weekends, etc. Obviously this is poor user experience, but the cynic in me knows it’s a purposeful omission to get extra money out of poor suckers who don’t know any better.

    I feel like most people will prob pay the extra $1 or $2 to avoid even the possibility of a $50 parking ticket — and that’s probably why so many machines are intentionally obscured and confusing.

  2. Rafal Rafal

    At first I thought the 70c/hour thing made no sense but…
    – if it spares you coming back after half an hour to extend your parking—it might be worth the 10c upgrade 🙂
    – this pricing is likely meant to promote short stops.

    Also, something tells me you haven’t seen Polish bus/tram ticket vending machines…

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