Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Automotive Design Disasters

When a car manufacturer decides to introduce a new vehicle, it takes dozens of people and many thousands of hours of work before the first completed vehicle rolls off the assembly line. These people work in teams to design the exterior, the interior, the engine, the chassis, and the suspension down to the finest detail.

Part of the automotive design process includes continuous peer review and design changes to make the vehicle look and operate as perfectly as possible.
However, I have to question the designers who put their stamp of approval on the following designs, because these vehicles have to be some of the worst automotive design disasters in recent history!

Scion xB Design Disaster
The 2007-present Scion xB has one glaring design error. Can you spot it? This vehicle has just one reverse lamp, positioned off-center on the left side of the bumper. Would you wear a pair of pants with only one back pocket? Would you listen to a stereo with only one speaker? Absolutely not! So why on earth would you make a car with only one backup light? I suppose this might look good if you are a cyclops or that chick from Futurama.
Mitsubishi Lancer Wagon Design DisasterHoly taillights, Batman! The taillights on this Mitsubishi Lancer Wagon are only slightly shorter than the Sears Tower. Not only will they make other drivers extremely aware of when you're coming to a stop, but if you live near the coast you can park this car up on a cliff and use its towering red lights to direct incoming ships safely to the harbor!

The Nissan Cube is neither hip nor square. It's not a van and it's not a sport-utility vehicle. It's not fast or sporty, nor is it intended for towing or going off road. I'm not really sure what it's purpose is, but this much I do know: it is hideously ugly from every angle!

Nissan aren't the only ones who can make an ugly, box-like vehicle. Take a gander at this Pontiac Aztek crossover! From its double-nostril front end to its plastic-clad sides and depressing roofline, this vehicle is an absolute monster that no doubt incorporates every single idea the design committee came up with. I cannot imagine why they stopped production after just 4 years...

Cadillac may be "The standard of the world" when it comes to luxury, but even the world-famous luxury car maker has had its share of design disasters. Take this Cadillac Seville for example. Its "bustleback" design looks less sophisticated and more like the car got rear-ended in a crash.
Speaking of ugly rear ends, check out the exhaust on this Porsche Boxster! That's right, a single pipe, dead center. Pardon my French, but the design and location of the exhaust pipe on this car looks just like an arsehole. I'm sorry, but there is just no nice way to call this one.
Hey, is that a pipe organ on wheels? Nope, it's just the rear end of a Lexus IS-F. The designers of this sporty sedan went more than a little overboard with the number four. Four doors? Check. Four wheels? Check. Four exhaust tips? "Oh what the hell, let's do that too!" they must have said. This is one design that should have been four-bidden!

A modern car is a complex system of electronic and mechanical systems working together in perfect harmony. In fact everything under the hood is so perfectly set in place that drivers are discouraged from ever knowing what really goes on thanks to the prevalence of plastic engine covers. These pieces of injection-molded junk are used excessively today in an attempt to limit access to your own car and to cover up the fact that today's engines look extremely lame.

The dashboard of the Toyota Echo may be one of the most visually unappealing designs I have ever seen. From its center-mounted instrument cluster to its shapely glove compartment, this thing looks like there was even less thought put into it than the movie "Gigli." How did they not realize how bad this looks?
Whether you're going to the moon or to the grocery store, the dashboard of this Nissan Quest minivan will make every trip and adventure! Its bizarre spaceship-like layout throws decades of intuitive and ergonomic designs out the window in favor of something that looks like a busy-box toy for adults.

Good God Almighty! The mother of all speedometers may be the single biggest thing about the Mini Cooper. The gauge is almost as large as the steering wheel, and is so ridiculously large that even blind people can see it. What an awful, awful design!

Look, I understand that designing cars is hard work - but we're not talking about putting a man on the moon, here. We're talking about shaping steel and glass into pleasing and practical shapes that people can feel good about buying. The majority of automakers have got this down pat - but as we can see here, some of them still need help when it comes to producing cars that are not disasters of design.

I am not the only one who feels this way:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Extreme Consumer Products are Extremely Lame

All my life, I always thought that the world was a pretty normal place. But as it turns out, I was wrong. The world is a very extreme place. Life is just one heart-racing, adrenaline-pumping adventure after another. What's that? You mean your life isn't like that? Well, you'd think we were a nation of nonstop adventure junkies based on the skyrocketing number of extreme consumer products out there!

Xtreme Consumer ProductsI suspect that the flood of extreme consumer products began in the beverage industry. For years, extreme sports enthusiasts have apparently been unable to quench their "xtreme" thirst with ordinary beverages such as water, juice, and soda. This led to the development of energy drinks, which are carbonated beverages similar to soda but with absurd amounts of caffiene and other allegedly "natural ingredients."

One of the first xtreme beverages to hit the scene was Monster Energy Drink. Besides classic Monster, it is also available in several varieties including a low carb version and a coffee-flavored version. Monster Energy has branded itself as THE drink for the extreme lifestyle by sponsoring events such as motocross racing and the X-Games.

So if you play regular sports like baseball and basketball, you drink regular beverages. If you do extreme sports like backflipping an ATV over a train, you drink extreme beverages. Fair enough. But I think that the number of products claiming to be extreme is getting out of control. I'm sorry, I meant to say "x-treme."

We don't use regular toothpaste anymore, we use Aquafresh Extreme Clean. We can't just remodel our house, we get an "extreme makeover." We can't use ordinary deodorant, we use Right Guard Xtreme deodorant. We eat Xtreme flavored chips and snacks from Pringles. We snack on Xtreme Snickers candy bars. We connect to the Internet using D-Link Xtreme wireless routers. We work with Xtreme tape measures from Stanley. We chat on xtreme cell phones from Samsung. Even Hasbro is putting an xtreme spin on the classic board game "The Game of LIFE." Look for "The Game of LIFE: Extreme Reality Edition" coming soon!

The whole trend of mundane, everyday products being rebranded and reintroduced as "xtreme" products really bugs me. I am not a (completely) stupid person! I can tell that the only difference between regular Pringles and the "xtreme" Pringles is the label on the can and a little bit of flavor additive! There is definitely a limit as to how extreme a product such as potato chips can really be.

What if D-Link's regular routers transmitted information at 54mbps and the Xtreme routers transmitted information at 540mbps? What if Right Guard made a deodorant that you only had to apply once per week? What if Pringles started using capsaicin extract in their flavoring? These products would deserve to be called "xtreme" if they really existed. However, this is not the case with the products you see at the store labeled "xtreme." I think that "xtreme" products are NOT significantly more extreme than their competitors in any way.

The truth is, D-Link's regular and Xtreme routers contain the same electronic components and have the same function, but one has a slightly different package. Woo-freaking-hoo. At the end of the day, the Xtreme router is not xtremely faster than the regular one. The Xtreme Pringles don't taste all that different from ordinary Pringles. I don't have to handle them with gloves or keep them away from children. The Xtreme deodorant doesn't contain any magic ingredients not found in ordinary deodorant. There is absolutely nothing more extreme about a Stanley Xtreme tape measure over a regular tape measure that costs less.

Taking a regular product and re-branding it as an xtreme product is the hottest new trend in marketing consumer goods these days. This explosion of xtremely lame consumer products is xtremely annoying. At this rate, it won't be long before "xtreme" sounds as dated as other buzzwords such as "radical," "groovy," and "da bomb!" This is one marketing trend that I would love to see laid to rest.