Bad Design that you are Forced to Have

A week ago I moved into a place in southern Carlsbad, CA. Near the water, close to Encinitas. To paint the picture and to understand why I’m posting this; it is a beautiful spot with concrete floors downstairs, with hardwood in the living room, ultra modern kitchen, the studio space has a glass garage door that rolls up so you can have it open while you work… pretty awesome. Our furniture is going to look great in this place.

So I call up my local cable company to get internet installed, and I’m forced to have this hot mess in my place. Now I know it is a small thing, and it will live in a cabinet, but really? I’m not saying I would have wanted them to spend more money on the BOM to make this little enclosure nicer, but they had to try pretty hard to make a device this poor. As if the top left centered sunburst of ventilation wasn’t bad enough, there is a sculpted wave form that contradicts it, making it doubly as cheesy. It would have been better to have just been a clean box. The issue is, unlike everything else in my possession, I have no choice when it comes to this device. I have no option but to support bad design.

Do you have anything like this in you house? Like an Easy Pass for your car? Post a pic in. I’d like to write a blog post about bad design we have to live with.


I have this exact box!

The bad design is outweighed by the humor it creates for me as I imagine the circumstance of its creation (Cable company gets a random OEM ‘design’ and/or somebody from a so-called local ‘design’ school that just teaches CS/CAD tools, but not design - and they just take a random concept or the first thing they get.

Or maybe the cable company higher ups were trying their hand at design manager, like the US cell phone carriers so often do.

I’d doubt, that some engineers came up with a solution as playful as that.
Looks like marketing having a 2 for 1 deal.

But I’d love to hear the real story behind that mess.

A pic of that garage glass door would have been much more welcome, though.


Yo: Imagine the poor designers that worked on all of the really nice Cisco products. They must throw-up a little bit everytime they see this hot turd.

I know what you mean. Cable modems are so ugly, I stay with DSL. At least I have some choice.

Are you kidding??? I feel like I’m often SURROUNDED by objects like this! There is no escape, even in my own home. :frowning:

Just yesterday I noticed this thermostat at my girlfriend’s house. It’s impossible to read and set the temperature, I’m gonna have to use a pencil to make lines when we figure out the comfortable temps. I have a similar design at my house but I know it well enough to eyeball it.

I noticed this thermostat at my girlfriend’s house. It’s impossible to read and set the temperature …

… we gotta have technology. I tend to agree with you. The thermostat in my house is unintelligible… I can’t figure out how program it, so I just just it as a switch to turn the furnace on and off.

I grew up with one of these ubiquitous little guys, so I guess I sort of grew up with “design” and didn’t know it. Besides millions of homes and office suites, you can find one in the Smithsonian. It worked great; totally intuitive operation.

Honeywell T87 aka: The Round, designer: Henry Dryfuss, 1953 (incompatible with “modern” furnaces… )

Don’t know what made me think of this, but I think Mr. D must have had a preoccupation with round.

I kinda like my ATandT Uvers wireless router/connectivity box. Although it’s not perfect it at least looks like they made an effort to have it be some what trending.

Question, are you willing to spend 300 on a thermostat? if so then you can get this.

Thread Jack: ON

… are you willing to spend 300 on a thermostat? if so then you can get this.

Maybe yes, maybe not. The Nest Lab folks have infringed upon five or six thermostat specific patents held by Honeywell… … including the round form and dial movement. “Round” is/was the product name used by Honeywell.

See > Honeywell vs Nest: When The Establishment Sues Silicon Valley – TechCrunch

Thread Jack: OFF

That box is pretty nice! Clean and simple.

it’s the same over here, we have a terrible modem that Virgin gave us… dated exterior, anoying mini-mini-tower shape that fits nowhere, and they even cheaped out on the inside too with slow ethernet and wifi. Basically it’s the lowest cost thing they could buy that would work.

At the same time, with a little annoying web surfing, it looks fairly easy to upgrade with something on Ebay that’s more to my liking - maybe you should do that.

That Nest is sweet!

Yo, that has designed in Guangzhou and Cisco label applied, written all over it.

It certainly does. And companies will do that as long as they can… by contrast Cisco’s enterprise phones are some of the nicest, they hire a lot of top firms for that work, frog has done a lot.

What other products are mandated to use through a service that we have little to no choice in?

I was in Germany last weekend and noticed something very interesting and relevant. When people are renting there and change apartments - they take their kitchen cabinets(yes cabinets), refrigerators, and ovens with them letting them choose what they have… a big difference from the UK/US where they come with the apartment (and are usually the cheapest possible installations in lots of places).

I know you mean something different though… I have to point out that in a funny way it’s unfair to ask designers that :wink:. For a designer, even the best design could be a little better and sometimes we’re asked to re-design nice products to stand out in the crowd. It makes us perpetually unsatisfied consumers at best, total curmudgeons at the worst

Cell phone carriers are still dictating a lot of design and are likely holding back good products. Have you ever been on a plan that doesn’t let you use Apple’s visual voicemail? it’s criminal.

Purchasing a phone in a two year contract with finishes that don’t stand up to a year of use without ugly scratches (or having to hide the design in a cover).

Drip coffee in the US. Almost free and simmering all day in lots of US offices. It’s alright when fresh, but gets downright nasty after cooking for an hour or two.

Airline xray screening and customs check lines service and experience design. It’s never not a long line and a hassle (sometimes it isn’t but it never happens twice in a row)

UK power plugs and outlets. Obscenely large.

Consumer printers. As you rightly pointed out in the past, they are made to print about 50 pages then break or jam up.

Shaving cream/gel packaging… easily the worst looking thing in my bathroom without special ordering

Really? I work for a phone company and everything is off-the-shelf. Maybe some UX (phone screen home page, cable box on screen menu) but I can’t think of any physical design in years.

I thought they were big because each power point has a fuse, so if something trips the whole house doesn’t lose power.

Buses here have the ticket validating machine after the driver, so if a ticket doesn’t work, the person has to push back past all the people trying to get on, to speak to the driver to sort it out. It is an in-built bottle neck.

On top of that, the public transport network is updating to an ‘oyster’ pass-card type system, so are installing new ticket validating machines that run both the old tickets and the new pass-card. The new machines require the tickets to be put in backwards, so nearly every second person does it wrong, and then has to move back into the oncoming queue of people to speak to the driver to sort it out. It’s like it has been intentionally designed to make public transport as difficult as possible:

(secret squirrel phone photo, the yellow ticket validating machine is a fair way into the bus, you can see the drivers coin machine on the right at the level of the womans handbag)

Sanjy: Public transportation is filled with bad design (and the occasional jewel). Similar to cel phone carriers dictating the handset design, public transit is another situation of people who know nothing making critical design decisions.

It’s not that they actually make the phones, but they buy them in bulk from the manufacturers, like Apple or HTC. They choose whether to let a phone design be profitable/available to the public or let them die by choosing what model to pick up in bulk. They make their desires known to the manufactures too.

As I understand it, they choose from the final phones which has been already been developed and produced, so the companies are forced to do develop with their preferences in mind if they want to be sure to sell them.

This was on the Verge the other day and explains it too Five years after the iPhone, carriers are the biggest threat to innovation

We bought a house here and I looked into this – it’s actually interesting and the reasoning was innovative (at the time), though we’re still stuck with the legacy. For those that don’t know, this is it.
So here’s the story: after WWII, the UK was rebuilding but copper metal was scarce so they set up the power system in houses with a ring circuit design – it’s a cable that circles the house rather than a radial setup like the US. The innovation was that it allowed much less copper to be used.

back then if there was a surge, it would flip the circuit breaker for the whole house or possibly melt the thinner wires. That’s why each of the plugs initially had an individual fuse in the big chunky plug, so just the appliance would be shut off.

The problem now, as I understand things, is that houses aren’t set up like that anymore – my house isn’t. Now each major electrical function is on it’s own breaker, eliminating the need for the individual fuse. Some houses are still the old way however, so they have to keep shipping the fused plugs

… and we’re stuck with the big plug

At least until this gets picked up.

Its so frustrating seeing terrible design when you know there is so much better available.

That Verge article puts a few things into perspective. Here one particular handset company X is notorious for dictating terms to carriers due to the popularity of their handsets, never ever hand out any freebies (I had a role a few years ago sitting next to the person who was in charge of R&R, I could get pretty much any handset I wanted as a ‘demo’; company X wouldn’t even hand out a promo. pen).

Company X’s terms meant carriers made less on their handsets than anyone elses, so carriers are discouraging consumers from purchasing company X’s handsets (even though they actively sell them, go figure). Now Company X have changed their tune and are begging carriers to sell their models, and are giving out handsets like candy.