Telltale signs of bad design

March 8, 2007
Most industrial designers have seen a bad design or two in the course of their careers.

Mike Hudspeth

Bad designs are difficult to disguise. They are hard to figure out, do something users don't expect, or can even end up injuring someone. However, it's not always easy to spot a bad design when it's our own. Part of the problem: We often can't see the forest for the trees. A few telltale signs to watch for include

Form without function. Styling can be important, but we are not in the fine-art business. Art for art's sake belongs in a museum, not on a product shelf. Thus, always make sure that a form has function.

Useless features can get included. Of course, a designer might have had a good reason for a particular feature at one time. But when you can't easily figure it out, reexamine the design.

Unidentifiable controls are part of a poorly designed interface. An example comes from a control that handles too many functions. We should think about the end user and create intuitively obvious designs whenever possible. Keep in mind that just because a design looks good doesn't mean it is good.

Knobs, buttons, or switches that are too far away from what they control often make for bad designs. A funny, but all-too-true insurance commercial shows one example. A man flips a switch at his house that doesn't seem to do anything, but three houses down causes a neighbor's garage door to mash her car.

Instruction labels can be helpful when they inform users where to stick plugs or connectors. But a general rule of thumb says when a design requires labels to tell users how to work a device, it makes sense to rethink the design and make it more intuitive.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list. However, asking yourself even these few questions will help you design better products.

Mike Hudspeth, ISDA, is an industrial designer with more than two decades of experience. Got a question about industrial design? You can reach Mike at [email protected].

 

Sponsored Recommendations

A closer look at modern design considerations for food and beverage

April 9, 2024
With new and changing safety and hygiene regulations at top of mind, its easy to understand how other crucial aspects of machine design can get pushed aside. Our whitepaper explores...

Condition Monitoring for Energy and Utilities Assets

April 9, 2024
Condition monitoring is an essential element of asset management in the energy and utilities industry. The American oil and gas, water and wastewater, and electrical grid sectors...

Strategizing for sustainable success in material handling and packaging

April 9, 2024
Download our visual factory brochure to explore how, together, we can fully optimize your industrial operations for ongoing success in material handling and packaging. As your...

Fueling the Future of Commercial EV Charging Infrastructure

April 9, 2024
Miguel Gudino, an Associate Application Engineer at RS, addresses various EV charging challenges and opportunities, ranging from charging station design strategies to the advanced...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!