November 17th, 2008

getting my goat

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.
it's a thinker

L'art du maugrément

A few minutes ago, while I was reading the AV Club review of Mirror’s Edge, I thought to myself, you know, if I didn’t spend so much time watching movies featuring parkour, and watching documentaries about parkour, and playing video games involving parkour, I might actually be able to learn to do parkour.

Then I remembered that I am a fat, hulking yutz in my late thirties who cannot run more than ten feet without having a heart attack and who gets winded answering the telephone. So instead, I decided to invent a new urban activity called “frakas”, or “free stomping”. It involves finding the most inefficient, violent and noisy way to navigate a route between two points. Obstacles can be painstakingly walked around, smashed to pieces while cursing angrily, or avoided altogether with the use of a taxicab. Preferred methods of traversal include stomping, shambling, lurching, trudging and meandering. Encountering a gap is usually dealt with by loudly complaining, or standing at the edge while shrugging one’s shoulders. The ultimate goal of frakas is to become one with the urban environment while doing as little work as possible, and to learn how to circumnavigate one’s surroundings begrudgingly, as our forefathers did.

Lessons start at $25 per hour. Recommended gear includes Tims, ironic t-shirts, and packs of cigarettes.