Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The spray head that probably won an award

In his classic book The Psychology of Everday Things (see at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), Donald Norman shows how the aesthetics of design often triumph over usability. So designers make doors you can't work out how to open, or cooker controls where you need instructions to know which control is for which ring, simply to make them look pretty.

He has a section called something like 'it probably won an award', suggesting that the artefacts in question were just the kind of thing the design mafia love and give themselves gongs for, but are practically useless. I have my own suggestion for such an award. It's the spray head on the pictured kitchen cleaner from Marks and Spencer. Very pretty, but frankly it's rubbish.

Firstly, at a glance it isn't at all obvious which way round you use it. Though seen from the angle of the photo it's fairly obvious, seen from other directions it's easy to think it sprays the other way round. This is because the press lever is on the same side as the nozzle, where usually it is on the opposite side. Result? I have at least twice picked the thing up and sprayed cleaner straight into my eyes.

Secondly it dribbles. Because your fingers are pressing on the same side as the nozzle, it's almost impossible to use without getting the cleaner on your fingers.

And finally it has a clever locking mechanism. Really clever. I locked it by accident, and after five minutes trying to unlock it gave up, screwed the top off and poured some out.

Sorry, guys. It's a fail. But a stylish fail.

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