Who is the most user-hostile designer?

Just for fun, I’m curious who people consider is the worst celebrity designer from a user perspective. My vote would go to Philippe Starck. Nearly everthing of his I have ever seen involves some signficant functional compromise that was made in the interests of aesthetics, or simply because it showed a lack of concern for ergonomics. I do appreciate Stark is revolutionary as an aesteticist, doing amazing things with form, materials, and textures. But I feel the plot gets lost when his quirky designs just don’t work as well as they should.

Before someone tars me for being unconcerned with aesthetics, I want to emphasize I think many designers do it well and still serve the needs of users (which include beauty.) But much “exemplatary” design seems notable because the designer could disregard user needs to achieve a novel solution – the concrete chair phenomenon. I’m curious to know who you think who routinely turns out difficult products.

Definetly agree on Starck. I made the mistake of buying one of his Fossil watches. What a piece of crap!!!

I never really had any respect for Lowey or Frank Lloyd Wright either - not big on “dictatorial” design i.e. “My way or the highway”.

Frank Lloyd Wright gets my vote as perhaps the most famous designer who hated people.

My vote goes to good ol’ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The ultimate Chicagoan Modernist. Just one visit to his all glass “Farsworth House” summer home in Lisle illinois tells the tale. The story of how it was built and how much it blew budget reads like an allegory of design egomania (awesome style included). It was a summer home for a single woman, and he didn’t build her any place for any clothing. I mean none - and when questioned about it he said “Why does she need clothes, it’s a weekend cottage.” Anyway I think Architects are always once more removed from the user than a product designer, so they come up as examples. I think the worst current user-bashing in products happens not on the ergonomics side, but on the interface side. Just one look at the remote for some of the new Plasma TV’s let’s you know we were the last thing on their mind.


another vote for starck. i did a small project (“bad design”) on one of his tea kettles. It is impossible to hold, let alone pour. I believe that he has his place in the design world. he’s good with aesthetics…sometimes, but he’s an ----insert word here---- when it comes to usability.

Has anyone had the chance to sit in Frand Gehry’s furniture?


It definatly has that “Stark” feeling to it.

Yeah, the Farnsworth house is a great example. NO closets but TWO bathrooms???

Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree on Starck. Some of his products are downright painful.

How about Ron Arad? Can any of his stuff be used practically?

Less well know, but notable for its “statement”, is the German design group called Stiletto. If its name conjures up images of pain, you are getting the idea.

It’s never good to bash somebody else in order to feel better about yourself, so I never (ever) uttered a word about my thoughts on Stark. I just thought I probably didn’t ‘get it’ with his work. Liberating to know I’m not the only one not seeing the emperor’s clothes.

supposedly starck actually did admit that his juicy salif was “bad design” → acknowledging that it was impossible to function properly, to make juice, to whatever.

but he still claims it’s successful, simply because it’s so talked about.

figure that out!

I will agree that many of starck’s designs are not user friendly - I would say sometimes his work is more art than design, as the aesthetics come before manufacturablility and user friendlyness.

As far as those aesthetics are concerned - I continue to be impressed, and would go so far as to say he is a genius, (maybe the sheer amount of good work from him compels me to say that) and I have a hard time bestowing that title on any other designer. I think history will read (possibly) Lowy as the grandfather, the bauhaus, the Eames, and Starck when summing up ID, with many other designers as footnotes. What other designer has developed a trademark style where you can recognize it when you see it? (not that that is great in itself, but it is hardly ever achieved). The man is on the same footing as Picasso in my mind - the greatest artist of the 20th century.

(as an aside, Frank Lloyd Wright, Picasso, and Starck are/were all said to have the energy of 10 men, which makes me question the role of talent versus the role of unceasing work).