Victims of Bad Design

These scissors are, I am grateful to say, a good design.

Remarkable inventions make life easier and more enjoyable.

I think of the miracles I use each day:

  • A climate-control system keeps my house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  • A tiny computer connects via the internet to people all over the world, as well as endless sources of news, information, and entertainment.
  • Local stores provide me with a broad choice of food and drink… or I can go to a restaurant of various cuisines.
  • A have machines to prepare my food and clean my clothes.
  • I can order virtually anything I need online and have it on my doorstep in a day or two.
  • I have a car that is reliable and fuel-efficient beyond anything my parents or grandparents could have imagined.

I could go on but you get the point; like most Americans, I benefit from all sorts of great stuff.

That reality makes what I am about to say all the more disturbing. It pains and confuses me to say it. However, some really, really, bad produce designs persist in our otherwise brilliant modern world.

I offer some examples:

  • The traditional glass ketchup bottle. Although various squeeze bottles have become popular, the old tapered glass bottle was designed better to keep the ketchup in than let it out. You no doubt have had the experience of tapping it on the bottom, shaking it, then smacking it will all your might, and, finally, having the contents splatter out on your food and well beyond.
  • The olive oil can. You can buy this wonderful oil in a bottle, but the larger size (and thus more economical) comes in a tall, rectangular metal “box”. The box has a spout in the top that pops up just far enough from the edge of the box that it is impossible to pour out the olive oil without spilling a large amount on the top of the box. It is messy to clean up and usually drips onto the kitchen counter. All sorts of methods for preventing a spill have been developed – none of them effective.
  • Paper towel dispensers. This is a problem in public washrooms. My experience is only with men’s rooms but I am confident the same problem haunts women’s rooms. Many dispensers are silvery boxes hanging on the wall with a slot on the bottom to dispense paper towels. In a world of ideal design, you would tug on the paper towel and one would come out. But these dispensers are designed to force you to pull very have on the towel, causing more than you need to fall out, with no way to return the unused towels to the dispenser.
  • Plastic cases for all sorts of products. I’m sure it would be easier to break out of some jails than it is to break into much plastic packaging. I recently bought a new pair of scissors. They came encased in plastic wrapping nearly the thickness of the hood of my car. It required a good deal of cutting with my sharpest pocketknife to free the scissors. I might have been able to get them out if I had a pair of decent scissors, but I didn’t, which is why I order a new pair.

I am sure there is a reason why each of these products is designed as it is. I also am sure the reasons are not good enough to offset the annoyance caused.

And then there is the situation of Amazon sending me a six-inch product in a three-foot box…

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