Design Crimes: Wahl Razors.

So, just wanted to share this. I recently was in the market for a new electric razor, and after a lot of research and noodling around I landed on the Philips Norelco arcitec 1090 which I’ve been using for a few months and love.

Coming up on my Father-in-law’s birthday and he wants a new razor. He is turning 70, and simpler is better for him. He tends to like the foil style vs the rotating blades that I like so I had to start the research all over again. It’s tough to find a razor without a lot of pivoting heads and “cleaning system’s” and what not, but I found a few simple Brauns that I think will work for him. My first razor was a Dieter Rams designed Braun travel mini, that still might have been the best razor I ever owned in terms of both aesthetics and function… but they don’t make them anymore.

Long story short, I accidentally stumbled on Wahl’s offering on amazon… I could not believe that product like this was being made in 2009. I find it so bad that it is fascinating. Did they buy the tooling from the CCCP or what on these? All the craze in Yugoslavia circa 1981? Is this anti design? Is this hipster irony?

Wow that is awful. I think my grandfather had one of those when I was a kid. I have a set of Wahl head trimmers and they work very well. I have had others in the past and these work the best. Too bad they can’t bring that to shavers.

Are they overstock from 1985, or just made with molds from 1985? hmmmm?

You will not speak ill of comrade Wahl…

I second the positive sentiments on the Wahl head shaver, but that beard shaver is really, really awful.

Slightly off topic but Wahls head clippers have always disappointed me.
I got them when I first started cutting my hair in the 80’s and had to get a pair last year for an emergency cut session. In 20 years they still haven’t changed one of their biggest flaws, the guards. The plastic is too soft and flexes so much that it doesn’t cut the hair accurately (the teeth bend out of the way so the hair is cut very irregularly), especially on smaller diameter areas. The blades rust really fast and the motor is too big and gets in the way.

On the other hand, I got some Oyster clippers when I started college in '92 and I still use them. They work exactly as they did on day one with heavy use, not an ounce of rust. They still look and function like I just bought them yesterday.

I don’t use dedicated shavers like these for my face and this design isn’t giving me any incentive to trust that they’ll be any better than their head clippers.

I suppose I’m going way against the grain here (pun… maybe intended, not sure yet).

I think that Wahl beard shaver is incredible. Simple as hell. Small. Looks like it would take back any stubble.

For me, I go backwards in time and technology for face shaving. Straight edge razor or Safety razor. Boars hair brush, leather strop, crazy shaving soaps, etc. Its the closest shave you can ever get, go figure. ALL electric razors fail at getting anywhere close to a sharp straight edge razor or double edge razor shave. This is a fact. Regardless… the point is, I like the old school for face shaving.

I don’t want or need the technology from alien craft captured by NASA, aesthetics from the new speed racer movie, or anything else a marketing team is telling me to sell their fast smart glowing electric shaver. Every time I have to use one of those in a pinch, I feel like I’m in the Minority Report, in the bad way.

This little guy looks like it is a simple, great working electric shaver.

I suppose it is a deeply routed lifestyle item.

Taylor, I was predicting you would take the opposite stance here. I commend you taking the devil’s advocate, but unfortunately, you are both right and wrong.

I wish there was a simple solution, like the Wahl beard trimmers, that ALSO represents good design, but this isn’t it. The original Braun shaver I owned actually looked a lot like the Wahl razor (so much so that the Wahl looks like an Eastern Block knock off, the way they ill copied the Volvo 240). It was a simple black block with a single button… but it was very designed. This looks a bit accidental, from the way the head interfaces with the body, to the LCD placement, to the poor product graphics.

Unfortunately, I think in about 20 minutes, the Wahl shaver could be a beautiful design, and I think they could have a “throwback” kind of chuck taylor place in the market, but the company must not understand how they could play with their brand in the marketplace. They are accidentally ironic… and poor design.

Skinny, I have the same experience with the Wahl clippers vs Oyster.

Far from a design crime. I would purchase the Wahl over the organic Braun any day. Basic design probably works just fine. I am a little leary of the material choice. They should have stuck to the same gloss black/chrome finish on their beard trimmers and traded on that old school quality. There are better silver finishes for plastic these days- so I think it is a matter of tweaking finishes.

I would also go for the Wahl. I’ll agree that it could be a lot cooler with some tweaks…but in my opinion the philips is uglier. Just goes to show how subjective this stuff is.

And if you agree that with that shape you could just paint it differently and take off the fonts- then maybe it’s not a design crime and it’s a marketing crime or something. Maybe it was out of the designer’s hands.

To me shavers would be better if they were wedge shaped, so when they didnt work anymore you could use them as door stoppers. Or at least electric shavers should accept a manual blade on the other side. After the apocolypse you’ll wish your fancy braun had that precious manual attachment option on the back. Unless you’re Taylor. In a post apocolyptic world Taylor could just shave using sharpened shards of metal (which will be everywhere).

On the subject of electric vs. traditional blade razor:

I worked with an ex-Norelco guy and he said you need to use an electric razor for about a week to “train” your beard for the new shaving technique. They came up with a “free trial period promotion” to get people past the first week. It actually worked. Most people return an electric razor in the first couple days because of the perception that it doesn’t give a close shave.

I still use a blade razor. I’ve never tried an electric.

I have to agree with Taylor. The Wahl is what it is, with some minor tweaks it could be elegant, but sometimes good enough is good enough, I wonder about the quality comparison and the enviro impacts of both products, but that’s for another discussion.

My 2 cents, shaving is masculine, I don’t want to shave my face with an electric phallus. Blades for the win.

All of you are missing the most important point! The Arcitec has carbon fiber on it! Carbon fiber people!

I think the Arcitec looks pretty weird in a good way. I don’t find the Wahl that offensive either. A little flea market-esque, but not rage inducing some recent products.

For my once a week shave I still find myself going back to my 5 bladed Gillete Fusion Phantom Power. (The all black one that also buzzes) There’s a craft to doing anything with sharp instruments that I like. I have yet to try a straight razor…

I’m diggin’ the brown and gold Wahl actually. Whats so wrong with basic rectangles? Apple sure seems to like variations of rectangles. (along with the millions of people who bought ipods and iphones)

I’m also half Croatian so don’t start dissin’ Yugoslavia ya punk ass. :wink:

That is probably the most disapointing post I’ve read on here in awhile.

Yes, with a few tweaks it could go from turd, to rock star, but it doesn’t have those tweaks. It is in fact, crap. Good enough NEVER is.

PC’s and Apples are both rectangles. So I guess with a few tweaks those black boxes could be awesome?

I’d like to hear some inside info on this, as I’d imagine that the wahl product dev structure has remained hardly changed since the 1970’s (besides obvious technological advancements). Engineering develops a product, upper management signs off on it, designers “pretty it up” as best they can, marketing tries to figure out how to sell it.

They are engineering driven with marketing and design tacked on as an afterthought. (it looks like the product graphics were designed by an engineer after the product was done) That’s how it has always been done and until leadership demands otherwise, it will continue to work that way. I’m sure there are plenty of frustrated wahl employees who want to change.

The issue really is that these companies make their bread and butter in the professional market with barbers, stylists, and animal groomers. These markets are performance, not lifestyle driven (unlike the “good design” examples cited here) No one really does both well as far as I know. Until braun and philips start grabbing this pro market away, these companies will continue operating the same way.

Last, some of these product may be exactly as suggested, sourced designs with the wahl name stuck on it. Just look at the shear volume of SKU’s. More is better, right?

Slightly off topic but more about the branding, I searched for more shavers considering whether I’ll try one and came across this lovely.

If you’re designing products for a foreign market, you really should get a local to check out the name first.

Well think about it for a minute though seriously, how much of an emotional attachment do you honestly need with a device that has a singular purpose, to shave hair off your body? Does this kind of device need to be radically ergonomic in the hand for amazing control? Ergonomics to prevent repetitive stress injury? If you’re using it that much electrolysis might be a better option.

Is it crap solely based on its appearance or are you considering factors outside the scope of creating that emotional response to merely to sell it? Personally this is an item I want to buy once and have it last a lifetime. In some scenarios “Good enough” is the best, and i’m talking about function and lifetime here, but i agree, where styling is concerned it is never enough because of trends. Maybe they’re both amazing razors, maybe they’re both junk, but i’d put my money on the one that looks like it was designed by engineers and hasn’t changed in 20 years in an endurance contest, it is probably the more responsible purchase in this case.

As far as PC’s vs. Mac’s go i don’t see much relation to razors, you don’t hold the case in your hand to operate it, it’s irrelevant to its function as you interact with the OS. So in this case it’s more about interface design and the experience it brings to the user. Consider the difference between Windows and OSX, massive differences in design philosophy here.

So the Wahl looks like an iPhone to someone on the boards? If so, you need your eyes checked buddy.

I’ve recently switched back to razors after four years with a Braun electric. It seems my beard got tired of the electric razor. Even after replacing the blade, it didn’t seem to cut it.

Anyways…when I was shopping, I looked for something that I would want for a lifetime, as suggested by Greenman. The design was certainly a factor in my purchase. When someone still sees my Braun in the bathroom, I’m sure they will think, “oh, that’s nice”. I’d have to hide the Wahl one better than my porn collection. That thing just says, “I’m a cheapskate.” or worse, “mom bought this for me.”

Now, I understand that maybe some hipsters are looking at this as though its some kinda retro '80’s cool product. I plead with you, do not bring back the crap product from the '80’s! I like the jeans and New Order, but let’s move on from the electric razors. PLEASE!

Thats not what Greenman said regarding the iphone
Break it down- What “design” are we referring to here?

Mechanical Design? The Wahl wins in my opinion because it is a more compact design from the relative scale of the blades and plastic compared to the Braun. The more curvaceous the overall form the less the it is likely to be hugging motor, battery etc; The Philips looks like it might be compact but I am not sure.

Styling: Seriously-is that carbon fiber on the Philips? What is the advantage of a digital readout on a shaver? The Wahl has clean lines, which seems to be a product of compact packaging. Could you be specific about what you dislike?

Material Specs: They are all poser plastic products. Not a genuine product there except for the Braun which doesnt really hide the plastic in the design. The Wahl is plastic, but at least there is less of it. If it were not painted that would help

Graphic Design: This is what is killing the Wahl. Font choice and position is poor and dated. Both Braun and Philips win.

The Wahl might not be the best looking, but it communicates functional performance to me with its form, but is let down by painted plastic parts and poor graphics. Again- could be better, but hardly criminal design.

Oyster Clipper: Bull Castrator | An appropriate agricultural technology. Whi… | Flickr