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Bed Design Kills
October 25, 2005 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Bad Design Kills The world is steeped in bad design. As designers we see something every day that makes us cringe or shake our head in disgust. But bad design does more than offend the eye of the designer. It facilitates a poor public perception for what our industry does and at the same time it lowers the perceived value of our services.
posted by ColdChef (65 comments total)

 
Bad Design Kills

And we're going to prove it .......

With this horribly designed website!
posted by afroblanca at 5:18 PM on October 25, 2005


Not only is it an all-Flash interface, but the Flash sits in nested tables. Pot, kettle, etc, etc.
posted by brownpau at 5:22 PM on October 25, 2005


I assume they're talking about bad graphic design, right? If not, what "industry" are they referring to?

Is this the way all graphic designers talk, as if "design" refers only to graphic design? What about engineering design, architectural design, industrial design, product design, etc.?

Man, they think bad graphic design kills, they should see what bad engineering design can do...
posted by pitchblende at 5:26 PM on October 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


Bed design kills? I suppose someone could drown in a waterbed ...

This is really horrible propaganda. Cute graphics, but almost meaningless -- they certainly don't show what is meant by bad design let alone what is good design. And they definitely don't show what "kills". The hearts of designers may break when they see lousy design, of course, but most people can manage -- or perceive that they can.
posted by dhartung at 5:26 PM on October 25, 2005


>> nested tables

Nothing wrong with nested tables. At least you know it'll render consistently. Flash, on the other hand...
posted by login at 5:30 PM on October 25, 2005


I can deal with nested tables, but an all-Flash interface kills me.
posted by camworld at 5:31 PM on October 25, 2005


I assume they're talking about bad graphic design, right? If not, what "industry" are they referring to?


Things like layout of a cockpit jump immediately to mind. In our design for engineers class in college, the prof was an old test pilot who'd lost tons of friends due to bad design, bad user interfaces, bad engineering, etc. It wasn't terribly uncommon for him to get choked up and broken-voiced over a particularly nasty design flaw that we were discussing in class that day because he'd had someone close to him die of it. Horrible to see.
posted by Ryvar at 5:32 PM on October 25, 2005


I'm dying.
posted by fire&wings at 5:33 PM on October 25, 2005


Speaking as a designer, it kills me when designers do this self-aggrandising thing where they try to elevate their profession... 95% of graphic design is about making someone else (clients, your boss) richer... and making a little bit of scratch for yourself along the way.

boy, that sounds jaded... but it's true, and I'm pretty comfortable with it. I just get uncomfortable about all the gladhanding that goes on similar to this.
posted by cusack at 5:38 PM on October 25, 2005


Nothing wrong with nested tables. At least you know it'll render consistently.

Even Slashdot has moved away from a table based design. If the Taco can do it, anyone case.
posted by sbutler at 5:41 PM on October 25, 2005


Bad Design Kills is so poorly designed that it doesn't work at all in Firefox.

Are these people really qualified to judge?
posted by Malor at 5:41 PM on October 25, 2005


I can't really stand to look at the website, but boy do I feel the sentiment. It's like every day I'm encountering something at home or work and saying, "Who the fuck designed this piece of shit?"

Lately it's baby clothes. They've got seven hundred snaps and velcro tabs and they make it near impossible to change a diaper at 5AM. It's like they were created by some sort of sadist.
posted by fungible at 5:42 PM on October 25, 2005


Badly designed indeed. You can't even resize the font.
posted by furtive at 5:43 PM on October 25, 2005


I have crossed THAT line and now it all becomes clear:

This a terrible post, lazy with no real content that only inspires sniping.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:48 PM on October 25, 2005


Erg.
posted by The Cardinal at 5:50 PM on October 25, 2005


The "save yourself, Sketch" poster is great. ..of course it comes in an illustrator file only.
posted by tomplus2 at 5:53 PM on October 25, 2005


Seriously, these graphic designers have got to see the big picture - their place in the world is right next to pop artists. Very influential, remembered by some for a long time, but not responsible for life or death situations.

As a Human Factors Engineering student I would say the best place to start if you want to find out about real designs that kill is by reading Set Phasers on Stun, a collection of truly lethal bad designs, from oil tankers to radiotherapy machines.

I'd like to see the site owners comparing reading a Vice Magazine rejects pile for an hour, then sit under a Therac-25 radiotherapy machine for an hour. Which burns more?
posted by anthill at 5:56 PM on October 25, 2005


95% of _________ is about making someone else (clients, your boss) richer... and making a little bit of scratch for yourself along the way.

boy, that sounds jaded... but it's true, and I'm pretty comfortable with it. I just get uncomfortable about all the gladhanding that goes on.


I'm putting that on a t-shirt. I'll make millions! Cusack, whip me up a layout with an everyman/underachiver font and the hippest indie/slacker colors!
posted by nonmyopicdave at 5:57 PM on October 25, 2005


Then again, after reading their mission statement, I take all my sniping back. And I'll print a copy to put in the lab, too. :)
posted by anthill at 5:58 PM on October 25, 2005


Even when you're limiting things to graphic design, bad design does kill. A typographer I knew was involved in a study of accidental hospital deaths resulting from nurses accidentally administering the wrong drugs - many of the drug names are very long and very similar. It was found that the design of the labels had significant impact on the frequency of accidents. (If found a lot more than that actually, such as what things worked better and why, but the point is just to providing an example of graphic design that kills.

That said, I don't disagree with most of the criticisms of this particular website :)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:10 PM on October 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


posted by anthill Seriously, these graphic designers have got to see the big picture - their place in the world is right next to pop artists.

The same is true for pompous students of Human Factors Engineering.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:14 PM on October 25, 2005


Think about it. It stands to reason that if the public at large views a larger percentage of bad design than good deisgn on a day-to-day basis, then naturally they will associate the bad design as the norm.

The fact that I couldn't copy and paste this from their site somewhat irked me, but I'd be taking things too seriously if I complained too loudly.

Frankly, though, I'd argue that we depend on bad design on a day-to-day basis as a means of survival.

I know I'm in a worse part of town because the signs on the businessnesses shift in appearance.

I know that I'm viewing locally produced television news because of lower quality titles, and thus know to take certain aspects of their reporting with greater skepticism.

I know that I'm buying the generic product because it looks generic.

I actually get annoyed when lower quality items improve their design, because most of the time that is all that is improved by the effort. It is good that consumers associate bad design as the norm, because there are a lot of items out there that are crap, and if all items had packages that were beautifully designed, it would be harder to tell the difference.

Put another way, my local grocery changed from putting their name on their store brand to some more modern name with more flashy design. Someone I know well purchased this particular item because it appeared to be a premium brand.

In summary, good design lies. Long live bad design.
posted by VulcanMike at 6:19 PM on October 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


Lately it's baby clothes. They've got seven hundred snaps and velcro tabs and they make it near impossible to change a diaper at 5AM. It's like they were created by some sort of sadist.

Fungible, did you write this McSweeneys piece?
posted by afroblanca at 6:19 PM on October 25, 2005


Also, this website is not in my best interests. While it is eternally frustrating that everything is so badly designed, the advantages are huge:

1. Because I don't buy shit, even when I want to buy something, I am often unable to find anything that doesn't suck, and thus my spending is kept under control. If the general standard of design were to improve, I'd need to develop some actual willpower instead to keep spending down, and having to do that would suck.

2. Because almost everything is shit, you can stand out by not being shit. Because it's often a subtle thing, people often don't realise what it is that they like, just that they do. If the general standard of design were to improve, I'd have to become a better person to stand out in a good way, and having to do that would suck.

3. Because almost everything is shit, I can get easily a job in many different industries and do very well. If the general standard of design were to improve, I might have to learn some new skills that are more productive and useful, and having to do that would suck.

Clearly, bad design is good.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:26 PM on October 25, 2005


Heh, the page title is "bed design kills". That's another topic entirely. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:31 PM on October 25, 2005


Does anyone else remember the series of Australian skits called "Bastards Inc.", in which there is a company that deliberately designs things to drive people nuts, and takes great pleasure in their sadistic success.

Can you jog my memory of some of the products? The only one I remember was the telephone booth with the acoustics designed to amplify the neasrby traffic noise when inside the booth so you couldn't hear the handset. (These skits were about 15 years ago. The bastard's Inc. spokesperson was the actor who went on to play "Colin" in the sitcom of the same name.

"Another fine product from... Bastards Inc."
posted by -harlequin- at 6:34 PM on October 25, 2005


Clearly, bad design is good.

I think that's only the case because you seem to base a lot of your purchasing decisions on design. As you have stated, that works out well because design is often indicative of quality. However, if everything had uniformly good design, you would find some other critera to base your decisions on.

Besides, I'm sure that some design will always be better than others.
posted by afroblanca at 6:35 PM on October 25, 2005


a public service announcement:

Graphic Design is about aggrandizing yourself by adopting a platform from which to display your designs. Since designers are by nature content-poor, they make design the content of their sites. In general, this involves some kind of inflammatory bullshit about poor design and/or design revolutions. The business model looks something like this.

1. Fake controversy over design.
2. ???
3. Get job at Apple.

For your own good, and the good of the "design world" which is clearly "in danger," please ignore this site.

this has been a public service announcement.
posted by shmegegge at 6:35 PM on October 25, 2005


I'm sure I'm not the only one here who doesn't. give. a. fuck. about. all. this. design. shit. that keeps popping up in waaaay too many blogs.

Get a real job, guys!
posted by rxrfrx at 6:42 PM on October 25, 2005


afroblanca: no I didn't, but thanks for that.
posted by fungible at 6:46 PM on October 25, 2005


Yeah, it is kind of ironic for a website on bad design to be badly designed itself. However, while bad design may (usually) not kill, I do cringe whenever I see a poster or flyer with ten horrible fonts and badly spaced, and the worst part of it is knowing that whoever did it is thinking, "Wow, I did that!"
posted by blue shadows at 6:59 PM on October 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


B-D-K just killed my E-Y-E-S.
posted by snsranch at 7:02 PM on October 25, 2005


flash 6 plugin required

Oh, the design sucks all right. It even has a font tag!
posted by clevershark at 7:10 PM on October 25, 2005


Yack, I was hoping the link wasn't going to be the same pile of red and white poopstuff I stumbled across a while ago.

The little "v1.0" in the corner is the icing on the cake. What a crock.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 7:13 PM on October 25, 2005


Bad design certainly does kill. Requiring flash killed my ability to browse, but based on other reactions, I'm not missing much. Maybe I can put off installing the linux flash plugin for another week.
posted by chibikeandy at 7:16 PM on October 25, 2005


In my "Human Performance in Industry" unit at university, our text book had pictures of the control room of the Three Mile Island nuclear facility.

It was so badly designed (eg. many levers and buttons looked identical) that workers had glued beer bottle tops to levers. Heineken means shut down, Carlsberg is the light dimmer etc...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:27 PM on October 25, 2005


I thought they could link to something about the building codes in India and Pakistan and their lack of enforcement.

Oh well.
posted by tzelig at 7:41 PM on October 25, 2005


Yeesh. Some of the lines and shapes are nice, but overall, the site is, er, ugly. And: "design" always includes function; any graphic designer worth her salt knows that. If I had to grade them, then, in the words of Phife Dawg, they'd be gettin E for effort and T for "nice try".
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:42 PM on October 25, 2005


Well, shit. I wanted to compile a post about usability, but now--meh.
posted by Tuwa at 8:05 PM on October 25, 2005


You know what I'm really sick of? Those graphic designers who try to come off as movie stars or something, man I do graphic design, it's not that cool.....

Well then again, I get to photoshop all day long.

Anyway, screw you all you japanese skateboarding too cool for you graphic designers.

I have a problem with them, and arrogance of the people that run boing boing, xeni smells.
posted by Billistics at 8:17 PM on October 25, 2005


I briefly worked at a bank's online subsidiary with a walking attitude case who boasted that she could make entire sites without writing a single line of code. All Flash, all the time.

Let's just say that her contract failed to get renewed after she told our manager that he was completely wasting everyone's time at a meeting. Evidently Flash isn't compatible with tact.
posted by clevershark at 8:23 PM on October 25, 2005


Want to "learn about good design by viewing bad design"?
Then visit http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/dailysucker .
For ten (10) years, Vincent has been showing us how bad it can be.
My favorite is http://www.soulwax.com/

,dave
posted by davebarnes at 8:23 PM on October 25, 2005


I have a problem with them, and arrogance of the people that run boing boing, xeni smells.

As a designer, this is a concept I can get behind. We should obviously start xenismells.com immediately. Viva la revolution!
posted by Josh Zhixel at 8:33 PM on October 25, 2005


I think the site is pretty neat looking, myself. I don't mind an all-flash interface (when I'm browsing at home, anyway, and when there are no intro movies), though I completely understand why people don't and why it's bad design.

The main offense for me is the first sentence in the second paragraph, "Think about it." No one should ever use that, and so many do. It's annoying.

Plus, I don't really get the point of the site, other than to sell T-shirts.
posted by notmydesk at 8:39 PM on October 25, 2005


I fucking hate this site. A prime example of bad website design over and over again.
posted by blackturtleneck at 9:13 PM on October 25, 2005


So, in summary... Kill Designers Bad.
posted by VulcanMike at 9:22 PM on October 25, 2005


Plus, I don't really get the point of the site, other than to sell T-shirts. Exactly. The site doesn't instruct or educate -- it's just pompous and superficial, not my favorite combination.
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:17 PM on October 25, 2005


As an antidote to all crappy design, try this book: The Design of Everyday Things.
posted by Harald74 at 11:53 PM on October 25, 2005


I honestly thought that this was a joke from the drop. As soon as I saw the "data loading" screen, I started laughing. It was only when I realized they were selling T-shirts that I became a little sad inside.
posted by dihutenosa at 12:49 AM on October 26, 2005 [1 favorite]


pitchblende: I assume they're talking about bad graphic design, right? If not, what "industry" are they referring to?

Is this the way all graphic designers talk, as if "design" refers only to graphic design? What about engineering design, architectural design, industrial design, product design, etc.?


As a recently graduated graphic designer myself, the answer is a definite YES. It is amazing how print-centered even more progressive schools often are. It is unbelievable how people who are hardly able to operate their email client are telling you how interface "design", usability, standards compliance etc. are not part of design. At a lot of schools, this attitude is handed down to the next generation.

A *lot* of high profile print designers (who admittedly do superb designs in *print*) have no idea about interactive stuff, yet develop pages in Golive for their clients as a bonus. It is pretty much impossible to get the ego of someone who has won ADC and TDC awards to recognize his view on the internet is amateurish.

That said, I think while the design of that page is bad for using flash the way it does, I quite like the *graphic* design of it, and can somewhat agree with the gist of it.

VulcanMike: I actually get annoyed when lower quality items improve their design...

[snip]

Put another way, my local grocery changed from putting their name on their store brand to some more modern name with more flashy design. Someone I know well purchased this particular item because it appeared to be a premium brand.


Again as a graphic designer who has done a few packaging designs - Your observation is correct, but you draw the wrong conclusions.

It's not that recently, generic products get to look higher quality than they are, but that very often "premium" products have been generic all along. A lot of traditional premium products are (and have always been) sold under different brands for a cheaper price. But you are right, it's amazing what a bit of good design can do, even to consumers who *know* this because it's their job to create it.

Point being, distinguishing products is not a valid argument why varying degrees of design quality should be a good thing.
posted by uncle harold at 1:40 AM on October 26, 2005 [1 favorite]


eustacescrubb: And: "design" always includes function; any graphic designer worth her salt knows that.

Most print designers know and pratice this. The surprising thing is how they often utterly fail to translate it to interactive media.
posted by uncle harold at 1:51 AM on October 26, 2005


Flash: when you have no skills in either design or code...kinda like Purgatory. Now ith AS 2.0!
posted by mrblondemang at 2:59 AM on October 26, 2005 [1 favorite]


I just noticed this, from their propoganda page. Look at that third "known toxin". Viral indeed.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 4:23 AM on October 26, 2005


Aside from the interface, can we pick on the actual 'propaganda' (ooooo, irony!) ?
It blows.
posted by signal at 5:15 AM on October 26, 2005


I agree that BDK's site is hilariously bad considering their stated aversion to, uh, plug-ins, but bad design really is a problem, though not a life-threatening one. The desktop publishing "revolution" and growing field of technically competent but untalented designers has made idiots of us all. Emails typeset in Comic Sans. Bumper stickers with incredibly tiny text. Junk mail so cluttered and busy that you couldn't buy their products even if you wanted to. Hideously overused stock photos with gigantic heads and small bodies, like some alien invasion. TV news with text flying across the screen, two overlapping marks in the lower right hand corner, rotating metallic station identifications all extruded and extreme.

Bleah.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:51 AM on October 26, 2005


Am I the only person who hates it when a link leads to a page that says "enter this site"? Bad design indeed.
posted by scratch at 9:42 AM on October 26, 2005


15 Popular Web Design Tips
posted by webmeta at 9:58 AM on October 26, 2005


Enter . . . And click . . . something
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:59 AM on October 26, 2005


Just want to throw my 2 cents on the pile.. I couldn't get past the second menu for the interface.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:23 PM on October 26, 2005


I emailed him about the problems with his interface and he told me to go "download a sense of humor." I guess irony doesn't count.
posted by jorbs at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2005


For those who have aptly outlined the shortcomings of the site in this post I think that Stanford may hold more promise for addressing the issues of bad design.
posted by quadog at 2:06 PM on October 26, 2005


ironic
posted by joelf at 3:01 PM on October 26, 2005


Hehe - the Propaganda page has instructions on how to use the scroll bar. I always liked Donald Norman on this stuff. If it needs instructions, you probably haven't designed it properly.
posted by Shinkicker at 10:59 PM on October 26, 2005


15 Popular Web Design Tips
posted by webmeta at 9:58 AM PST on October 26


You are the worst poster in the history of time and I hope you burn to death, spammer.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:22 AM on October 27, 2005


If not, what "industry" are they referring to?

if you have to ask... bad design.
posted by 3.2.3 at 8:31 AM on October 27, 2005


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