The Law Of Design: When Companies Flawlessly Engineer A Product Failure

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

There is no doubt about it. When a company hits the drawing board and attempts to design a product, they never intend to fail. Yet, with many highly anticipated items, and other products where the design phase had taken some time, failure almost seemed planned. As though the creators never once considered the user, ergonomics, appeal, or any other factor when conjuring up these terrible and ridiculous product designs.

However, we should be thankful that such failures have occurred. Otherwise, how would we know the mistakes to avoid in the future? For the most part, you cannot learn from success, as everything was done just right. However, in failure, there are countess lessons to be learned. So let’s all try to learn a few things here, and look at terrible product designs that have come and thankfully gone.


Pontiac Aztec
The absolute only reason most people even know about the Pontiac Aztec is due to its use in T.V shows such as Breaking Bad and 30 Rock. Which would be sad, as it was a decent idea with a relatively cool name, but my god is it hideous and unruly.

The idea was good, a recreational vehicle that can go off road, transform and aid campers, have plenty of windows for viewing the beautiful outdoors, and other seemingly simple and worthwhile ideas. But what they created was a vehicle that wanted to do all of those things, but failed in actually doing them. The cars handling was atrocious, the size and window layout somehow created numerous blind spots, it couldn’t go off-road, at least very far, making the camping function useless unless your camping in your driveway. About the only thing it was good for, was the butt of a joke.

Chevy Volt
GM’s executive director for vehicle electrification said it best, “It’s naïve to think that the world is going to switch tomorrow to EV’s.” This was said after GM sped up the roll out date for the Chevy Volt by 6 months in 2011. Not only were people not ready, nor wanting, this new EV. But the Chevy volts were accused of creating fires due to the cars lithium-ion batteries. In July of 2011, a mere 125 models were sold.

To hide this dismal fact, GM spokeswoman Michelle Bunker was quoted as saying that the Volt was almost “sold out”. This was later proven to be an audacious lie attempting to recreate the hype the Volt once had. But it was too late and too bad, cause the Volt had failed.

Online Services

The abomination created by Netflix was at one point announced as becoming a separate service for mailing DVDs while Netflix remained its streaming service. However, the increase in price, and different company name entirely turned off customers, which resulted in about 800,000 subscribers ending their subscriptions. Qwikster was so bad, that it wasn’t even able to go public, and had to be scraped before it ever took off.

Apple Maps
Apple was starting to get a little tired of Google, and as a way to keep their name and logo out of its products, the attempted to replace the popular Google Maps with their newly devised Apple Maps. Sounds simple enough, however, apple hadn’t recognized exactly how much work Google put into their maps. As such, Apple Maps didn’t replace Google maps for very long, as it quit easy to change out apps nowadays.

But the public nail in the coffin occurred when a car supposedly hit a woman because she followed Apples directions to the T, which resulted in her walking out into the middle of a road. The woman brought a suit against Apple, which did nothing more than further tarnish the image of their Apple Map App. Their attempt to break away from Google, at least in that regard, was a complete failure.


Disney John Carter
For those of you who have seen Disney’s John Carter, the few of you albeit, you will all probably agree that the movie was not actually that bad. Following up to the hit movie Avatar, John Carter was supposed to help scratch that over the top CG movie itch that people had developed.

But after a number of terrible marketing blunders, ranging from super bowl commercials, to previews in theatres, nobody knew what the movie was about, or who was supposed to enjoy it. Due to that, the movie lost Disney around $200 million, which is surprising to say the least. The movie was supposed to start up a franchise, with multiple movies to follow. However, it just failed so damn hard.

Mars Needs Moms
Another Disney blunder, this one more recently, took a smaller hit with this animated movie totaling a net loss of $136 Million. The voice acting was overall praised as good. But almost everything else failed miserably in its production. The writing, story and plt, 3d and drama all came into question and were heavily criticized. After these two movie failures alone by Disney, they’ve lost nearly $350 million. I’m not sure how many hits like this a company can take, but you know Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto probably working overtime to make up for it.


Energy Drink Cocaine
As the name would imply, Cocaine was controversial from the start. It contained three and half times the amount of caffeine as red bull. The FDA declared that they must take the product off shelves as they were illegally marketing their drink as an alternative to street drugs. Cocaine claims there is no such thing as bad publicity, which in part is true. As it is banned in the U.S, but have very high sales across the globe, mainly throughout Europe.

Pepsi A.M and Crystal Pepsi
Pepsi noticed that many cola drinkers enjoyed drinking cola in the morning, no doubt due to the caffeine it provided. It also seemed like a decent substitute for coffee. So they first decided to create Pepsi A.M, a clear cola promoted as a morning drink.

This failed, as you would suspect, so they tried a different approach years later and dubbed it mission: Crystal Pepsi. They refused to believe people wouldn’t like a clear cola, especially when the taste was almost identical. However, they had yet to learn the age-old maxim…. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Failures Ending In Fatalities

Firestone Tires
In 2000, there was a lot of publicity for firestone tires, and it was not due to how great they were. They were forced to recall over 6.5 million sport utility vehicle tires after it was reported that the tire tread was falling off, many times while people were driving. It resulted in around 46 deaths, and over 200 other incidents.

Lawn Darts
Back in the 1980s, everyone’s favorite backyard game turned out to be nothing short of a death wish for those who played. Lawn Darts required a ring that you placed on the ground, and the infamous Lawn Dart, which was nothing short of a medieval javelin made of steel your precariously throw in the air, children included, and attempt to land the dart inside the ring. Many, many people were both injured and killed, and as a result the product was recalled and ended production in 1988.

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The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter @FacePalmLaw. You can’t trust everything being sold, and if you or a loved one is in need of a Colorado Personal Injury Attorney, it is recommended you find one soon to help explain your options.

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