Bad Design, A Modern Epidemic: A.K.A. Screw You, Ashton Kutcher

Like any good creative person, somewhere in my early twenties, I read “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. As most of you probably know, the novel’s protagonist, Howard Roark, believes that all architecture and design should flow naturally from an object’s central purpose. In other words, form follows function.

Unfortunately, this discipline seems to have been completely lost in the modern world, where most products are designed first and foremost to look cool rather than to actually serve a purpose. There are lots of people I could blame for this. I chose Ashton Kutcher. No, not for his crap movies, but because the same stupidity that turned his mesh trucker cap into a mandatory fashion accessory has now influenced almost everything we touch. There doesn’t have to be logic, practicality or taste applied to a product so long as it plays to the vanity of some empty notion of hip.

What we’re currently experiencing is the backlash to our parents age of pragmatism. Your dad bought stuff because it did shit and it didn’t matter that it looked like shit while doing it. Take the wastebasket. It was a large receptacle that held smelly trash — something you could buy in 10 seconds and then spend the next 18 years trying to get your son to empty. Now, the wastebasket is part garbage receptacle, part Frank Gehry pantry art piece. And to be honest, when this transformation is done well, I applaud it. Hell, why not have the toaster look good for the 99.9999 percent of the time it’s not browning bread?

The problem arises when designers ignore the functional purpose of a product and simply focus on making it “cool.” Then all hell breaks loose — dragons grace the front of dress shirts, spoilers adorn the back of Ford Escorts.

I’ve recently come across a few of these products that I wanted to share with you:

Look at this piece of nonsense. Is it a phone? Is it a vibrator? And either way, how do you turn it on? You don’t, you throw it against the wall.

Perhaps this explains why all the housekeepers in the Dublin hotel have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Oh, I get it — there’s six feet of sink, but a single stream of water whose power resembles that of a 70-year-old man with prostate problems trying to pee after golfing eighteen holes in the desert.

The sad part, is that had any of these or the millions of other horrifically-designed products out there just tried to be honest and functional, they would actually be cool instead of simply pretending.

To illustrate this point, I’ll leave you with one more product I observed above my head last time I was in Baby Blues, one of my favorite barbecue joints. Oh, the sweet sound of beautiful design.

If you encounter any abysmally-crafted products while living your life, please send me a photo. Together, we can stop this tragedy before it goes any further.

3 thoughts on “Bad Design, A Modern Epidemic: A.K.A. Screw You, Ashton Kutcher

  1. I’m totally with you on this, especially when it comes to hipster fashion. But when I look at all the cool-looking mac and nike products I’ve purchased over the years, I have to admit that I am a design whore. I hear admitting it is the first step to recovery.

  2. I have to agree with Jeremy. Before even reading his post I was thinking of Haight-Ashbury, I swear some of these people aspire to be hipster-homeless and the things they sell both on the street and in the stores kinda follow the trend.
    It is never a bad thing to purchase something because you admire the design. If sales go up then the designer has made a happy client. And you are totally not alone.

  3. I don’t how I got to this page, and honestly didn’t even know who kutcher was, so I looked, and immediately found a tid-bit directly related to what you’re stating in this article I couldn’t help but sharing… It’s on his wikipedia page : Kutcher was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Larry Kutcher, a factory worker, and Diane (née Finnegan), a Procter & Gamble employee.[2][3][4] Kutcher was raised in a conservative Roman Catholic family,[5] with an older sister, Tausha, and a fraternal twin, Michael, who had a heart transplant when the brothers were young children. Kutcher attended Washington High School in Cedar Rapids for his freshman year before his family moved to Homestead, Iowa, where he attended Clear Creek Amana High School. In a 2010 interview on Late Night with David Letterman, Kutcher claimed to be an all-state linebacker who averaged 15 tackles per game in high school. According to a former coach, however, Kutcher played sparingly as a wide receiver on a team that won only two games in his entire high school football career. Kutcher also appeared in school plays.[6]

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