Bad Design Kills
by Rhonda Negard
by Rhonda Negard
Design is everywhere. Bad design is everywhere. Bad design confuses. Bad design destroys. Bad design kills.
Not everyone understands what design is or the many different aspects of design. From directional signs at a conference to the road signs in cities, we rely on and trust that signs will help direct us where we need to go, even in this age of GPS. Even a GPS can’t eliminate confusion or getting lost.
I was driving in Tacoma taking 705 to downtown. Now, you have my general location. Let me give you my perspective too before I continue. The absent spaghetti bowl layers of overpasses, underpasses, entrances, and exits to the right as designed in Texas leave me homesick. Left exits are the exception rather than the rule in Texas. The Tacoma to Seattle entrances and exits are a bit haphazardly placed. This is not an area where one would have a leisurely drive to think and daydream. You must pay attention. All of these roads, how they intersect, merge, and divide, were designed. The Seattle roads in particular were likely designed under significant duress. You can feel it.
Let’s return to the scene; I was driving on 705 and needed to exit for 15th Street to downtown. The Tacoma to Seattle stretch of highways, spurs, and I-5, have numerous left exits and right exits simultaneously. Knowing this is helpful but isn’t enough to be lax on attention. Guess what. At one point there’s no option to continue straight and stay on 705. It’s an “exit” that is called “Stadium” and swings the driver to a 3-way stop right downtown where it ends. Weird. I didn’t even need to go that far. I needed 15th Street. The right lane was the Stadium exit. The left two lanes were A Street exit. Where’s 15th? I had no other option–just the two. I figured I’d exit early and drive north rather than backtrack. Thank goodness. After I exited for A Street, after the divide between the right lane and left two lanes had become a guardrail and 20′ drop, I saw the sign for 15th Street. Bad design.
Design is planning. It’s leading. It’s communicating.
Imagine the accidents and frustration that sign misplacement causes. Why didn’t the sign for A Street include 15th street? Poor planning. Bad design.
For another example, look no further than the revolutionary redesign of the traditional prescription bottles, caps, and labels that propelled Target’s pharmacy. The rings on the cap are color-coded for each family member. Simple. Revolutionary. Life-saving. It reduces the likelihood that child A doesn’t accidentally take grandpa’s heart medication, which could kill child A. Smart design. The labels wrap around the top of the bottle and in big letters show the name of the medication, which makes it easy to read for older eyes. It reduces the likelihood of overdosing on a medication accidentally taken multiple times instead of the intended medication. Smart design. It’s too bad that Target sold its pharmacy operations to CVS, which has decided not to embrace this live-saving design.
“People are digging through their trash and reusing Target’s well-designed prescription pill bottles.”
From directional signs to prescription bottles and labels, design can kill, and design can save lives. It’s a mystery why people, especially business and community leaders, don’t embrace and even hire, learn, and practice design thinking. Bad design is everywhere. Good design stands out. Good design solves problems. Good revolutionizes.
Do you think you or your business are too small or simple to afford or embrace? Can you afford not to? Can you grow if you don’t?
This article is adapted from BAD DESIGN KILLS.
For design, design thinking, and the impact on the world, watch Deana McDonagh’s Ted Talk, The Best Kept Secret: Design Thinking.
Rhonda has more than 20 years of experience in graphic design and marketing. She has substantial experience in the association, financial services, insurance, healthcare and construction industries. She hold a Master’s degree in Communications from the University of the Incarnate Word and a Bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University.
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