Examples of bad design

I have always appreciated good design, even before I was aware of what design was.  Growing up, I enjoyed beautiful objects so much that I’d often draw them on a notebook. And although I didn’t know yet that beautiful doesn’t always equate good design, at least I had the good sense, even back then, to wonder what purpose a certain gadget or add-on accomplished.

“Daddy,” I’d ask my weary father, “why does Mazinger have yellow horns sticking out of his ears?”

Like most children,  I had little patience toward poorly designed objects (read: toys). But I grew out of it, as children do, and got used to products that would more often give you a headache than do what they were supposedly designed to do.

One day, a few years ago, Ann Szeto, a design professor at Sheridan College, said that every single object around has been designed by someone.  Obvious as that is, it still bewildered me. I’d never fully appreciated how important design is. It’s everywhere. It’s one of the most important professions in the world.  Yet most of us don’t have a clue of what good design is, perhaps because good design is near invisible. Neither are we particularly thankful for it—tell someone you’re a designer, and their most likely response will be a polite, “Oh.”

I’ve grown fascinated by design. I am, after all, a writer, and what is good writing if not good design—the pruning of prose, the elimination of needles ornaments, the ability to convey a message in an as efficient and clear a manner as possible?

My interest in design is not limited to writing. From the iconic, easy-to-read dial of a Rolex Submariner to the effectiveness of an OXO salad spinner, I’m always appreciative of and thankful for good design. This makes me intolerant of poor design, especially when it’s blatant or, even worse, intentional. Consider the picture below, taken yesterday in a TTC wagon:

What’s missing? Look above the doors. What do you see? Ads, and in one case, a blank space. What do you not see? What should you see above a subway train door? What would make the life of a commuter easier?

The TTC is the first subway system I’ve ever used where it’s possible to find only two maps in an entire wagon. In a crowded train, that may mean that a novice TTC user will get off at the wrong stop.

Of course, the TTC makes more money by displaying ads than by displaying maps, except in the case where it didn’t even post an ad. Thus money and carelessness trump good design. As they often do writing.

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2 Comments on “Examples of bad design

  1. Missing maps are usually a result of people taking them – not bad design. You’d be surprised how many have them on their walls.

  2. Although it IS bad design in that them maps are removable!