Bad Design Diary: Shower Faucet

I’m beginning a new series about bad design. Being a designer, I’m constantly thinking about it, and thus also always spotting bad design. One of the assignments my instructor assigned at the design conference in New York a few months ago, was to spot and record five things wrong with our hotel rooms. That was easy. I’m always looking out for areas that could use improvement.

But I won’t simply be complaining about bad design. I’ll also be offering up a solution. These will certainly be my own ideas, and not necessarily the best resolutions, but definitely better than the complaint I encountered. These will be short posts – not my usual 700-words-or-better columns I post. They will also have their own category for easy sorting and grouping. So come along with me as we look at some bad design.

For episode one I want to show you the shower faucet we had in our hotel room when we stayed the night in Portland, Maine. So the problem one encounters when using this faucet is that while it says on this way and off that way, and hot over here and cold over there, one really can’t tell which direction to turn the handle to cool the water. Can you?

Do you see the problem there? I mean besides the fact that I was taking a picure in the shower while the water was running, with a non-waterproof device… It’s just not obvious which direction to turn the handle if you want to change the temperature.  And in the case of hot water, that could be dangerous. One must turn the faucet and experiment to find which way is right.

So you think I’m petty. But I’m a pretty smart guy, and I reached in there without looking and just twisted it on. And it wasn’t obvious to me at all. so my solution is simple, if not a little obvious: a sticker that reads “hotter” and “cooler” with appropriate arrows to match. Simple, but it would have worked, and they could even have provided some tactile affordance that assists people a lot more effectively than temperature experimentation while my eyes are closed against a face full of soap or shampoo.

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