Perplexing Design Intentions

Some observations on the design of everyday things

If you take, as I do, that design is the practice of crafting the best experience given people’s intentions, then you may similarly find the following situations perplexing.

On the design of hotel rooms
While I appreciate the “hip,” “modern” or “luxurious” vibe of your decor, the brochure describing your carefully curated pillow collection, and the fact that your mini-bar comes stocked with thirty-seven different brands of alcohol in 3 separate serving-size containers, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that what most of your clients would appreciate more than anything else is getting good rest when they’ve been traveling long hours, hopping time zones, and perhaps needing to do some business during their stay.

If your walls are too thin to disguise the sound of talking, rolling baggage wheels, or the pitter-patter of feet at 5:30am in the morning, and if your curtains and windows are insufficient to block out the morning light, it might be nice to provide some advanced notice and maybe provide a few simple items like earplugs and sleeping masks (you know, in lieu of the shoeshine brush or ironing board in your closet, both of which seem strictly less useful.)

Also, why we’re at it, as much as I appreciate the aesthetic of an “open shower,” if it doesn’t prevent the floor and most importantly, my towel-as-bath-mat from becoming swampland after washing my hair, I’m not into it. Please invest in shower doors or some proper shower curtains. Thanks so very much.

On the design of rock concerts
Look, I know you’re starting to become a big-shot artist, and you were just at the Grammys last week rubbing shoulders with people who are so cool they could get by in life without needing last names, and maybe you don’t care that much about anything other than getting to the RAW and BRAZEN truth through your music, but I’d just like you to know that I think it’s pretty not cool to do a concert which your fans aka the people who have shelled out cold hard cash to buy your music, buy the ticket, drive all the way to the big city from the ‘burbs because they love you and your music and felt some deep, unspeakable connection—it’s not cool to do a concert where you give no indication of when you’re going to take the stage, and then because the ticket says doors open at 8 everyone arrives at 8 or 8:30 or 9 and stands and stands and stands (because of course these small theaters never have anywhere to sit) through acts they’ve never heard of and were never announced prior to the ticket purchase, through sound check and bad pre-concert music, before you waltz on stage at a time that pleases you when everyone should be going to bed because they have school or work tomorrow, hours after you were supposed to, and pretend that’s just the normal rock-and-roll thing to do.

Perhaps I’m missing a rule in the Canonical Guide to Rockstardom somewhere that states that under no circumstances should concerts be comfortable and well-run from an experience perspective? Or maybe it’s necessary that I suffer to prove I’m a true fan? Please advise.

On the existence of lines in general.
Look, you think you’re a fixture of everyday life. You hang out in front of lemonade stands, at the DMV, in front of the best amusement park rides, next to aisles stocked with impulse purchases like “her nose did what?” and chartreuse M&Ms. Perhaps you even fancy the notion that your very existence is an expression of desirability, a marker of capitalism signaling that people choose to camp out, sacrificing their time and comfort in order to lay their hands (or eyes) on some coveted thing.

I just want you know that under no circumstances do I not consider you a failing (or an opportunity, if I’m feeling more glass-half-full-ish) of experience design. Death to lines! There is always a better system.

On containers and content
Hey there, new news app. It’s cool that there’s been a lot of innovation going on with you lately. Every week, there seems to be a new cousin of yours popping out of the woodwork. I’ve seen variations with stunning new layouts and typography, easy-to-digest chunks of news, slick multi-directional gestures, and all the curatorial tools I could ask for.

Alas, I’d rather drink fine wine out of a plastic cup than two buck chuck from the holy grail.

On the design of office desks.
So you’re sleek and glossy and going for that whole “clean minimalism” thing but heaven forbid someone should try to sign some papers on you, or place a laptop or mug or something on your surface, because that is NOT what people should do on a DESK such as yourself and you’ll let them know it, you’ll let them know it good with the introduction of some bold, expressive, Picasso-esque scratches.

On the design of levers and knobs.
If you are a knob or a lever that controls something, and you do not follow an obvious, tried-and-true pattern, you need to come with labels that describe how you work. No excuses.

On the design of bars.
Loud music is awesome. The great thing about loud music is that you can hear the bass thrumming through your veins, and it makes you want to move! So if you’ve got an open floor, dim lights, and a swank bar, then crank the music up because WE’RE GOING CLUBBIN’!

No? You want to be a different type of bar? You want to leave no dancing room but instead fill the space with a bunch of comfy sofas and tables and armchairs spread four feet apart? You want to have a decor that reminds one of some British lord’s library manor?

Then for heaven’s sake, please don’t blare the music like you’re trying to drown out your angsty teen sorrows. Please keep it quiet enough so that we can actually have a conversation across the four feet of armchair-distance and we don’t look and feel like a bunch of awkward, bored introverts.

On the design of packages.
If you are a cardboard box and you have a strip that lets you be openable in one smooth motion without requiring additional implements, and you can be flattened in less than five seconds without additional

additional implements, I will write epic poems of your greatness and sing praises of your wondrous feats so that they may be admired and eulogized by all.

By Julie Zhuo at of the looking glass
Julie Zhuo is Product design director @ Facebook. Self-professed tyro and lover of food, games, words. Follow me as @joulee or on

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