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.