Archive for the 'Bad design' Category

Lavazza’s confusion

Lavazza Espresso point machineI was visiting an office where they had one of these delightful Espresso machines, an Espresso Point by Lavazza, and tried to make me a cup.

I put in a paper cup and a coffee cartridge, pushed the button at the right of the panel next to the size I wanted, and instead of that steaming coffee, I got a blinking red light at the left (marked below with an arrow).

I tried to puzzle the meaning of this light. It had the icon you see, with a coffee cup and an X. What did it mean? Obviously in a large beverage dispensing machine it would stand for “I’m out of cups”; but this machine did not store cups. It might mean “You forgot to put in the cup” – only I hadn’t. What else? “Smash a cup before I agree to make coffee”?

After much futile experimentation a local came and said “Oh, the machine is out of water”, and she proceeded to pour some in at the top. I could finally enjoy my coffee.

Lavazza Espresso Point machine - control Panel

But what a stupid design choice… the cup with the X has no relation to missing water; and indeed, the fact that the cup looks identical to those in the icons at the right side of the panel only reinforces the mis-interpretation.

Shame on you, Lavazza designers!

Another ridiculous serving suggestion

I’ve discussed before the silliness that results when overcautious lawyers and thoughtless designers cooperate to create silly “serving suggestions”… and here is a lovely new example.

Serving Suggestion
Salt package

In itself this salad may be a good serving suggestion for a package of cucumbers (or of parsley, perhaps)… but this is not what this image is displayed on. Instead, it is shown on the package in the photo at right.

Yes, this is a package of plain table salt!

I can’t wait for a producer of mineral water to think up a “serving suggestion” for plain water. Until then, this one will remain a winner on my list of pointless package legalese.

How do you say “Plug and Play” in Russian?

We got this new Samsung flat panel TV, and when I first turned it on it went straight into a “first time setup” sequence. The first question that appeared on the OSD (On-Screen Display) was which language I wanted for the OSD; I started scrolling among the options, and my finger slipped and hit the “enter” button when the option “Russian” was selected. The OSD obediently changed to Cyrillic script, and presented me with the next setup dialog. In pure Russian. Yay.

Unfortunately, there was no “Back” button with a universally understood back arrow, so there was no way I could go back and un-choose Russian; or if there were, it was described in Russian right in front of me – and I don’t know this language. I tried mucking around the interface at random, but to no avail. I thought of reverting to factory settings, but the manual said I need to find the option “Plug and Play” – and I really couldn’t say what that phrase looks like in Russian, even if it were written in Latin characters, which it wasn’t.

And there things stood, until I remembered that Samsung had delivered the TV with three copies of the manual, in English, Hebrew and Russian. By carefully using this as a Rosetta Stone, I managed to find the equivalent Cyrillic words and finally found them in the UI. Once reset, I was back with an OSD I could read.

Poor interaction design, Samsung!…

The chimeric camels of China

In times of old,  intrepid European explorers who ventured into remote countries like China or Africa would return with travelers’ tales of amazing creatures such as have never been seen. And apparently such wonderful animals still exist in far away lands, reflected in the meager evidence that filters back. Take this sighting…

Camel Donkey from China

I saw these small figurines – and dozens like them – on display at a souvenir shop in Ben Gurion International Airport. Nothing surprising about camel figurines in an Israeli tourist trap, after all we do have camels in this country, though you’d need to travel far into the desert to find any. The price tags said these were made in China – no surprise there either, everything is these days.

There were two models: a kneeling animal, with the unmistakable hump, thin legs,and small-eared head of a camel; and a standing one, with the hump of a camel, and the short thick legs, long ears, and stiff mane of a… donkey. Indeed, other than the hump, the Chinese craftsman has done an excellent job of capturing the anatomy of this patient beast of burden. The travelers were right: wondrous chimeric beasts must exist in China, and they seem to inspire Chinese product design!

More signage silliness

I was in a shopping center and I saw these two signs on different floors, pointing out the emergency stairs’ entrance.

Now, the sign on the left is well drawn and clear – the guy is purposefully descending the stairs. But the sign on the right has something very wrong…

Stairwel signs

It’s a bit hard to say exactly what it is with this poor chap on the sign… does he have a broken arm? A bad knee? Is he climbing the stairs or descending them? Perhaps the best description is that he’s drunk and wobbling about on the stairs.

Oh well…

Tomatoes and the laws of Thermodynamics

When we spent a while in the US in the eighties I was amazed and amused by the silly warning “serving suggestion” found on food packaging. I mean, what were they afraid of… a flood of lawsuits by people that opened the soup powder sachet and failed to extract a steaming soup tureen?…

Like many a silly idea this practice hit Israel a few years later, and I stopped noticing it – until this caught my eye:

Yakhin crushed tomatoes

This has the ubiquitous “Serving Suggestion” in fine print; what makes it unusual is two incongruities:

  1. Slicing one tomato in half hardly counts as a serious serving suggestion.
  2. These tomatoes would require a Magician to be served in this way. You see, the caption on the green stripe says “Crushed Tomatoes”!

I don’t expect the marketroids at Yakhin food products to be fluent in the laws of thermodynamics and entropy, but even they must know that you can serve a whole tomato by crushing it, but you can’t make a crushed tomato whole again.

Bon Appetit!

Signage and confusion

People who design signs ought to be careful, because thoughtless signage can so easily lead to confusion…

Public restroom signs are a case in point, because people who see them make assumptions. For instance, as someone once pointed out, if one sees a WC sign of the opposite gender and the one for one’s own use is not next to it, one can go seek it at the opposite end of the same floor, or in the same position on the floor above or below… there is rarely a sign to tell you which is the case.

And here is another example in this domain: I saw the sign on the left near the door to a single restroom in a large building lobby. The immediate assumption of the user is that this is a handicapped-only room, and they go looking for the Gents’ or Ladies’ room. Which is not there, because this is the only restroom in the place. The intent of the sign, no doubt, was to indicate “here is the restroom, and it is wheelchair-enabled”.

Restroom Signs

The sign on the right is far better – it is again a single facility, but there is no mistaking the fact. Though it is interesting that the fellow on the left seems to be levitating… 🙂

Little Big Biscuit

You need to speak Hebrew and French to detect the hilarity of this photo:

Petit Beurre package

Here’s the thing: the package contains a local make of  Petit Peurre cookies, a timeless biscuit design. However, someone decided to brand it as PTIBER GADOL – literally, “Large Petit Beurre“. Except that Petit, of course, means Little

Oh, and incidentally, neither the package nor the biscuits deviate from the standard size we’ve had for ages. The only large thing about this product is the silliness of the branding.

RosettaStone posts a blooper

Was looking up RosettaStone, that Rolls Royce of computer-based language teaching tools. They have a nice web site with demo videos and all – very handy. And they had a video there promoting their system, and as it zipped past something seemed wrong. I rewinded a bit and there it was: my native Hebrew language, in a pattern that made no sense at all. It took a second to resolve: they had the hebrew word for Succeed – written backwards, left to right.

Rosetta Stone Error

Of course it’s not uncommon to see a Windows program mess up the text direction of Hebrew (and, I suppose, other RTL languages) – after all, Redmond is not in Israel – but you’d expect a Languages school to catch this blooper…

The rebellious envelope

Every child knows that postage stamps are affixed to the top right corner of the envelope. You lick the stamp, and you press it to the envelope at that corner. And it stays there. Or does it?…

Golden Envelope can't hold a stamp

I was sending greeting cards recently, putting them in the envelopes they came with. Some of them sported envelopes made of some shiny gold-colored paper. I licked the stamp, put it on the paper… and in a few minutes, as soon as it had dried, the stamp would pop up, curl, and drop off. The envelope was golden, but it could not hold a stamp. You’d think the card manufacturer would pay attention to such a detail?!