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11 Terrible Designs in Everyday Objects

  • Jan 12, 2011
Good design is rare and a work of art. Bad design is a pain in the ass and it's all around us. Presenting 11 terrible designs hiding in everyday objects...
Caps Lock key
Caps Lock is the Joe Biden of the keyboard: it's generally believed to be needed, but screws everything up when it tries to do anything.

There's no need for Caps Lock. When used unintentionally, it tends to wreak havoc on passwords and get you locked out of websites; when used intentionally, IT MAKES PEOPLE SHOUT ANNOYINGLY or worse still lOOK lIKE cAPTALIZATION hAS gONE wRONG.

I propose ripping off it's plastic lid or - less violently - using the little CapsLock Be Gone application that disables it forever.
Toilet roll holder
This is the only acceptable design for a toilet roll holder:

It works beautifully. To insert a new roll, you simply align the hole in the roll with the pointy thing on the holder.

To remove, you slide off the empty cardboard tube straight into the trash can.

Conversely, the more popular design is a bathroom abomination:

This needlessly over-engineered device has springs and all manner of insanity, meaning that 99% of users will simply rest the toilet roll on top.
Comet is a very effective bleach cleanser.

So effective that when you accidentally knock it over due to its amazingly-obvious design defect, you can turn your carpets white. You'd think it would be a Federal law that all extremely dangerous chemicals have a lid...

Clamshell Packaging
So clam-shell packaging is the stuff that retailers use to protect "high value" inventory items, like razors, DVDs, batteries - or practically anything actually - from what they euphemistically call "shrinkage".

While it's understandable for "loss prevention", it also seems somewhat unacceptable that I should need a box cutter whenever I buy an SD card, and a pile of bandages for the inevitable injuries that follow.

Illy cups
Illy makes great coffee and sexy-looking coffee machines. They also make a nice range of logo-emblazoned cups that are supposed to add to the experience.

Unfortunately, the Illy cup design has a circular handle the size of your forefinger, which causes the user to get burned multiple times upon usage. Specifically:

- If your finger is wet, the cup rotates while carrying, causing hot liquid to escape all over your hands.

- As you are getting burned the first time, any reaction causes more liquid to leak, and progressively more burns.

Bad design.

Infrared toilet flushers
Commonly seen at airports and a growing number of public facilities, these devices have the laudable purpose of cleaning the toilet bowl when the average, lazy, voting-card-carrying citizen can't be bothered.

Presumably, the configuration of these things must be Ph.D.-level complicated, since most are programmed to activate exactly when you're comfortably positioned on the throne. Timing, as they say, is everything.

FrancisFrancis! x5
For the unfamiliar, this is an espresso machine without a single label on any of the buttons, levers, knobs or other operational elements. As an added bonus, it also features two lights without labels, thus operating more like a computer from some 1960s TV show. It's a totally mystery how this thing works.

Gas cap
Among many of the issues that billions of humans haven't been able to agree upon, the "which side is the gas cap?" conundrum continue to haunt drivers across the world. Manufacturers have been unable to decide upon whether the left or right side is optimal, and I certainly don't want to enter the debate.

But wouldn't it be nice if every car on the road had the little triangle thingy on the fuel gage that at least gave us all a head start on where to look. Instead, I end up getting it wrong about 50% of the time.

Canned goods
Amazingly, the engineers in the food storage business clearly have lower GPAs than the same guys in the soda industry. The food guys continue to think that this is a great design for a can:

Apparently, it's all part of the fun to require a can opener to make razor-sharp jagged lids just to reach $1 of beans. Meanwhile, there are a few people who escaped the soda business and brought over their can-opening innovations that made the whole thing much simpler and less dangerous.

TV remote control
This is what I have to navigate to watch HBO:

Seriously, I've been on aircraft where the pilot has fewer buttons. This actually looks simpler than it is, too, since I first have to figure out which AV channel is connected to AUX2, so I've missed whatever I wanted to watch by the time it works.

What did you think of this list?

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April 02, 2013
Coffee cups in general are badly designed. The base should be wiser than the rest for stability. A relatively small opening at the top will retain hear better. How difficult is this to see?
November 15, 2011
September 09, 2011
Your wrong about the toilet roll holder. The one you seem to think is better, actually lets the roll slide off if you tug it with enough force. the best ones are the inner spring button cylinder ones.
September 09, 2011
Not if you install it vertically :-D I was hoping that the three shells from Demolition Man would be become a reality one day...
July 14, 2011
Canned goods with flip lids are certainly much easier. However, the bad design of requiring a can opener is also a cost issue. Since we are talking about a $1 or less can of goods, adding a more complex lid can cut a very tight profit margin even tighter.
March 22, 2011
Cell Phones and other hand helds need a uniform method for charging
April 18, 2011
They're working on it. They're already making a standard laptop cable that most companies are using (though not acer). Cell phones are moving towards standard A to B cables. It's a slower movement, but we're getting there.
May 23, 2011
Marketing ploy, can be taken in both directions: usb chargers are advertised as universal to attract business, where product dedicated chargers guarantee sales. Depends on the company, universal makes sense to us, but not entirely to companies. We think convenience, they think money, sometimes they are the same, sometimes the opposite. Any questions?
May 23, 2011
Most notably a company that became famous for its subtle nonconformities, Apple. They will always have dedicated. The ipod/iPad/iPhone charger has only undergone one design change: removing the lock catch buttons on either side in favor of a simple pull. Also chargers are unique, the software is dedicated, accessories are almost ENTIRELY sold by Apple. Incompatible with hundreds of cheaper products in favor of a more expensive Apple product. Yet thousands of people eat the product up... its like the one kid in your elementary school class that was allergic to peanuts, in a sense of compatibility....
May 23, 2011
Laptop chargers are unique* missed a word.
February 26, 2011
the gas cap is always on the drivers' side of the vehicle for the country of origin. American made and designed cars are on the left, japanese and british cars are on the right. Simple.
February 27, 2011
yes... you cant just imagine the side of gas cap based on vehicle origin, well i had use japanese car for quite some time.. even you buy the same model but difference type it also will have different gas cap..
April 18, 2011
Yeah. It was a total BS answer. It seems to have nothing to do with the country of origin. It looks more like they flip a coin.
July 14, 2011
Gas caps should be on the same side among a particular manufacturer. This is done for even distribution at gas stations. For example, BMW is on the right, Honda is on the left. If all cars were on the same side, drivers would need to turn around to get to pumps that are not facing their direction. In the alternating design, drivers have a higher chance of finding an open pump.
January 25, 2011
On many cars the side the hose is displayed on the pump icon indicates the side of the filler cap.
January 25, 2011
I destroyed expensive pills trying to liberate them from their absurd packaging.
May 23, 2011
See my post for solution/reasoning
January 25, 2011
LMAO, I never even thought about any of this, but yes, peeved by several of these!  I so hate clamshell packaging *shudder*  Great list!
July 17, 2011
To open clamshell packaging, I grab one corner and with a hammering motion slam the package onto the pavement. This cracks the next corner. Then pry it open open with your bare hands. This is surprisingly satisfying, releasing the frustration of having to do this in the first place, and working for the reward. It usually takes a few poundings. The product remains safely protected at the center of it's pod during this birthing process.
July 17, 2011
Another design fail: iOS autocorrect changes "its" to "it's" when half the time that's incorrect!
January 25, 2011
"a few people who escaped the soda business and brought over their can-opening innovations that made the whole thing much simpler and less dangerous" Definatly more dangerous, i once opened one and i had to pull so hard on my can of hungry man that it came up to fast and sudden that it caught my thumb and gave me the second worst cut that i have ever gotten on my finger tips.
April 18, 2011
Good can openers have a strong magnet to pull the sharp lid out for you.
May 23, 2011
Well.. I have worked in corporate owned liable restaraunts. If they ever use a can, they train us to never completely remove the lid (hey, the lid is now a strained) and use a utensil to lift the lid to avoid injury in the work place. For why its built this way, read my post above.
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James Beswick ()
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