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#30 Emotional blackmail, bizarre toothbrushes & Dieter Rams
It’s Design Lobster #30! We’re growing up fast. To celebrate, I offer you a reimagined toothbrush and emotionally manipulative software – plus a quote from Dieter Rams! A veritable design smorgasbord 🧆🍲🥧😋
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Question: Should design ever make you feel bad about yourself?
My attention was drawn recently on twitter to the account cancellation process for a banking app called Dave. Successfully cancelling your account involves navigating a bafflingly long sequence of screens in the course of which an animated bear becomes more and more distraught at your choice to leave.
It’s… cringeworthy. I feel bad for the illustrator who had to do all those variations of a tearful bear. But this practice of attempting to manipulate a user’s emotions to perform (or not perform) a particular action is by no means limited to this one app. In software circles, this kind of design is known as a dark-pattern. The layout, copywriting and flow attempt to coerce a user to do something against their will by encouraging feelings of guilt, remorse or FOMO. It’s behaviour that would be creepy if a human tried it on you, and it’s doubly so when a company tries it hidden behind an animated cartoon character.
There are times in life when we might need somebody (normally a friend or family member) to intervene and remind us of the consequences of our actions, to force us to address our conscience. But the trivial decision to close a bank account is most certainly not one of them.
Design takeaway: Are you emotionally blackmailing the users of your design? Stop.
A video of some common dark UX patterns.
In 2018, French company FasTeesH launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new kind of toothbrush – the Y-brush. So-called because of the shape of the device – a sort of stumpy, curved Y – the brush was designed to clean your teeth all at once instead of one by one. Because of this, the company claimed you could brush your teeth in as little as 10 seconds. The product caught people’s imagination, and met its target. This year it went on sale for €130.
I sort of love design ideas like this that re-examine really basic assumptions about a product and aren’t afraid to follow through the consequences, no matter how weird. In this case, revisiting the convention that teeth ought to be brushed one by one, opened up an entirely new approach to what kind of toothbrushing tool we need. Whether or not the end product appeals to you, I think there is something for designers to admire in that ability to question the things that get taken for granted.
One drawback. Based on the video, the Y-Brush seems to require a much larger amount of toothbrush than usual, so that might be the price you pay for such a time-efficient clean. 🤷♂️
Design takeaway: What basic assumptions about your design could you revisit to send it off in a completely different direction.
Get lost in toothbrush youtube. Yes, it’s a thing.
Quote: “Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design.”
– Dieter Rams
In Design Lobster #12 we looked at an elegant table lighter that Dieter Rams designed for Braun in the 60’s. Check it out, it’s a beauty. The quote this week reveals a great deal about how Rams approaches a design problem. Fanatically interested in how people actually live their lives, it is from these observations that he derives his intuition both about what should be designed, and how. The opposite, indifference, is thus for him the original design sin.
By the way, you can still watch Gary Hustwit’s documentary about the designer here.
Keep curious. 🦞
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