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You are bad product design

Product design has always been a secret passion of mine, and something I’d have loved to do for a living if only I had any of the necessary skills. Good product design is one of the reasons Apple is so successful despite a small market-share; it’s the reason American cars outsold more efficient Japanese cars for several decades; it’s the reason we often think of ordinary consumer goods from the ‘50s and ‘60s as being superior to the ones we have today.

Although there is some fine product design being done today (especially in Europe), bad product design has become endemic. While a well-designed product is almost invisible, because it seems so natural and functional, a poorly-designed product is conspicuous in its badness. It draws attention to itself. This even extends to packaging: consider the blister-packs that you know just by looking are going to require a knife or scissors to get to the product, or those insufferable security strips on DVD packages that like as not are actually going to destroy the box the product came in.

For what bitchy reason do I bring this all up? Well, I got this fancy-ass toothbrush a couple of weeks ago, with beveled bristle layers to be able to reach each tooth at its own level. And it has this rounded, quasi-ergonomic design, which I’m sure is meant to keep you from getting carpal tunnel syndrome from the horrible exertion of making a side-to-side motion for three minutes, but it’s designed in such a way that it can’t stay upright on a flat surface. No matter where you put it, it falls over on its side and protects your bathroom countertops from getting cavities by depositing your toothpaste on them. BAD PRODUCT DESIGN.

Luckily everything else in the whole world is perfect so I am allowed to complain about this.

Comments

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memento_mori
Nov. 17th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
They also don't fit in toothbrush holders.

You should check out this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Small-Things-Considered-Perfect-Design/dp/1400040507
ludickid
Nov. 17th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
THAT IS ALSO TRUE! THEY DON'T FIT IN TOOTHBRUSH HOLDERS! Man.
krinndnz
Nov. 17th, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
I totally share this sensation: reading design blogs is delicious sometimes because it lets you see how awesome ordinary objects can be sometimes. Part of this is just Yog-only-knows-what parts of my background coming out, but part of it is also that Chip Kidd's The Cheese Monkeys made a big impression on me, and it's basically a novel about design.

Those blister-packs are freaking vile. I'm glad that some places like Amazon are trying to get rid of them - they're apparently an anti-shoplifting thing, so some online merchants are trying to get away from using them because you don't shoplift online-only merchants.





(also I hate to nitpick you because you're a better writer than I am, but I think you mean "epidemic" instead of of "endemic," or maybe "endemic to modern life" or similar.)
ludickid
Nov. 17th, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
I believe I used "endemic" properly, as in "prevalent in a particular area or environment".
krinndnz
Nov. 18th, 2008 03:01 am (UTC)
hazards of an autodidact
Right, but which area or environment in particular? I thought that you needed to explicitly state one when you use "endemic" instead of leaving it implied. Am I getting this right?
deadflowers
Nov. 17th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
why are you trying to place your toothbrush on a flat surface? you mean like by the sink? that's gross. mine is kept upright in a beer mug because i prefer mine to harbor as few creepy-crawlies as possible. also i boil it for few minutes every other week.

best buy is also ditching the clamshell packaging.
ludickid
Nov. 17th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
I place my toothbrush on the sink for the time it takes for me to screw the cap back on the toothpaste. If, in that period of time, it becomes infested with disease, then I should be doing a better job keeping my sink clean.

Also, I would never boil my toothbrush. That leads to a weakened immune system.
brandiweed
Nov. 18th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
Would rinsing the toothbrush *before* you put the cap back on the toothpaste be a stopgap?
roseyv
Nov. 17th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
I HAVE THAT TOOTHBRUSH!!!
And I was just saying to someone a while back that if some home-design genius wanted to make a million dollars, s/he would design one of those toothbrush holder things with holes big enough to hold a contemporary toothbrush because really, it's not just the electric ones anymore. It's all toothbrushes everywhere that are being designed with these fat-ass handles, and we're still churning out these 20th-century style holders with the skinny little holes.

So anyway. Point being, I was in Bloodbath & Beyond a few weeks ago and saw something in the bath department that utterly puzzled me for a moment. It obviously wasn't a bathroom glass type thing, because the shape was all wrong -- kind of a long, flattened oval. And the opening at the top had a sort of inner lip on it that would have made drinking from it impossible without dribbling. Then after a second I realized what it was: It was a 21st century toothpaste holder! With a single, wide opening at the top that would fit any number of toothbrushes, regardless of how thick or oddly shaped the handles are ... or might become in teh future.

So, if you don't mind shelling out another few bucks, you can buy something that will hold the thing up, at least.
happinesstogo
Nov. 18th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
Toothbrush technology has really come a long way in the last several years. I guess it's kind of amazing that all my teeth didn't fall out over all those years of my youth when I was using the simple, flat brushes. All that being said, yes, it's frustrating how these hi-tech toothbrushes tip over when you set them down.
conrad_zaar
Nov. 18th, 2008 12:54 am (UTC)
I think I have that kind of toothbrush - or a very similar one, anyway. My main complaint is that when I bought it I didn't notice that it was purple and therefore intolerably feminine. But I'm pretty sure that's my fault.
flying_blind
Nov. 18th, 2008 03:02 am (UTC)
Prop it on a wadded, damp washcloth.
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ludickid
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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