A while ago I read an interesting article about wet shaving. I was particularly struck by this bit,
"A dull disposable razor dragged across a layer of foam or gel on your cheeks is a step backward from the past, not an improvement."
Isn't that sad? Seriously.
I say sad because think of the hundred's of millions of pounds worth of R&D technology invested into shaving by huge global corporations. Think of all those MBA's and all those sharp brains. Think of all those meeting rooms and flip charts and PowerPoints. All that - and we're going backwards.
Isn't that sad?
The article goes on to say that all you need for a good shave is water, a blade and some cream. That's right, just one blade. Not five.
"Millions of men have been shocked to discover that the “old fashioned” method of shaving they thought went out with the Hula Hoop is actually the best quality shave you can get."
You see, according to the article, a "cheap shaving gel" that "smells just like your deodorant" actually dries the skin. And all those fancy blades don't work because they're designed for "the knucklehead who thinks the harder he rakes the razor across his cheeks the closer his shave will be" when actually the less blades and the lighter the touch, the better the shave.
Isn't it sad that we've actually designed a considerably worse experience than we started with hundreds of years ago?
Lastly, the article says,
"somewhere along the line, when shaving became more about cheap, disposable razors than a nice, precision-made metal tool in your hand, it became a brainless routine to rush through in the morning without even thinking about it".
How does this relate to design?
I think this example is a metaphor for how marketing departments and brands and designers have managed to make stuff worse using design. And not just worse, but we've actually come full circle and designed a solution that's the complete opposite of the answer. You can see a lot of that in modern design. You see it in websites, in products, in basic information, in wrapping swedes in polythene.
In The Hidden Persuaders there's a great story about a guy who was asked to double shampoo sales. He came back and said that they should add the words "repeat if necessary" to the text on the back of the bottle. Sales doubled almost immediately. OK, I'm paraphrasing that, but you all know the story and you get my point.
Yet again we've taken something that was perfectly good at its job and we've added another layer that actually makes the experience worse not better. Not only that we've made it "cheap" and "disposable", the complete opposite of valued.
If we are to take the environment and Reduce, Reuse, Recycle seriously then we've got to stop adding layers of badly designed, badly thought ought extra stuff into everything. We've got to make the best use of the materials available to us. We've got to really think about what we're designing and not just keeping adding blades.
We've got to say enough, more. One blade is enough. One rinse with the shampoo is enough. Nature's natural packaging is enough.
This is why good designers should be CEO's and Head's of R&D departments and FD's and why Design Is A New Management Trend.