Alice Rawsthorn illustrates bad design and warns against its dangers in a recent talk

On March 6th of this year, Alice Rawstorn gave a presentation on "Why is so much design so bad?" during the annual Brainstorm Design conference, building upon the previous year talk where she defined "bad design" with new examples of design flops and failures. 

Alice asked why 'good design' commands so much of our attention when there are just as many if not more examples of bad design.

The design critic and author of Design as an Attitude returned ‘to talk about the flops and failures, which are unfortunately abundant in our lives.’ Bad design, she points out, ‘has just as much, if not more important than the good variety, and it is expensive in terms of time, emotion, effort, and energy to remedy.’ In Rawsthorn’s analysis, there are seven kinds of bad design, which should serve as cautionary warnings. 

She begins with an image of a broken down ‘Boris bus’ being trawled off a London street, her example of a useless design. The bus was intended as a fuel-efficient reinvention of the iconic Londoner red two-decker but has since been plagued with problems. 

Next, she discussed pointless design, Rawsthorn brings up the new Nokia 9 smartphone, which has five cameras – an unnecessary number. After, she brought up irresponsible design, which, according to the design critic is the result of designers not thinking thoroughly about consequences.

Alice proceeds to call out Adidas, whose Jabulani football possibly skewed the results of the 2010 World Cup because of how its behavior fluctuated with altitude, which she deemed of unreliable design.

The author went ahead and addressed design that means well but misses the mark, which she described as good intentions, but... She also expressed indignation at two recent fashion oversights – a jumper that seemed to reinforce the stereotype of blackface, and a hoodie featuring a noose around the neck. ‘These go in the “What were they thinking?” category,’ she added.

The final, most important category she calls dangerous design, the example being the crash test dummies which are modeled on a typical male body and are primarily responsible for women being 40 percent likelier to be injured in road accidents. 

‘And so I believe it’s absolutely urgent that we get to grips with bad design,’ she concludes. ‘And the more thoroughly and the sooner the better.’

To find more about the design critic and author, visit her website here, where all the dates of her future talks can be found. We also encourage you to take a look at Alice's Instagram, where she posts daily about diverse topics relating to design. 

If you wish to see the complete presentation Rawsthorn made, during 2019 Brainstorm Design, the full video can be found here

design, Alice Rawsthorn, bad design, design, Alice Rawsthorn, bad design