A useless watch that’s so useless it’s not even a watch

I’ve been at pains to make clear that my interest in useless watches is not a de facto interest in bracelets. A useless watch and a bracelet are not the same thing.

That said, this item blurs the line. I’d say it’s a bracelet that comments on useless watches. And since it’s sold at the MoMa store, it must be, if not “art,” then “Good Design.” Via Better Living Through Design.

Earlier notes on low-utility watches here, here, here, and here.


The Washington Post‘s Linton Weeks offers an entertainingly cranky piece on “cutility.” Examples: “Everyday tools and objects are receiving total makeovers. Orvis sells a tool kit that includes flower-patterned pliers, scissors and utility knife. Target offers a toilet brush holder shaped like a black bear.” Needless to say, cutility is a theme of many Consumeds, and I wish I’d thought of the word. It’s got phad written all over it! Anyway, Weeks writes:

Alan Andreasen, a marketing guru at Georgetown University, says the trend toward cutility is “an attempt by lots of people to individualize both themselves and their possessions.”

He equates the cuting-up of the commonplace with “tattoos, customized cellphones and ringtones as a way to step away from mass commoditization.”

Credit, he says, goes to the clever marketers who have found ways to breathe life into mundane commodity categories. “Sure,” he says, some “people have lots more discretionary money to spend on these things, but I think it’s more about the idea of trying to be your own person.”

Design spew

Best Product Design of 2007 list includes The HomeHero Fire Extinguisher. Apparently it’s not actually for sale yet (a surprising number of the picks have no demonstrable track record in the actual marketplace — odd for a business magazine, no?) but will be available at Home Depot later this year. BW says: “A modern, elegant look makes it more likely to be displayed — and accessible in case of fire.”

Oh really? And is that a big problem? Lots of fires burning out of control as a result of all the shamefully ugly extinguishers we’ve been stuck with up to now? Good Design to the rescue!

Whatever. I failed to figure out how much the thing costs, compared to a regular fire extinguisher (another thing that BW surprisingly doesn’t bother to tell us), but while trying to do so I found this Core77 post, in which Don Lehman asked two worthwhile questions:

Is it just me or is every product that you see getting a ton of press lately meant to be proudly displayed on your counter or coffee table instead of being relegated to the closet?

It’s not just you. Instead of building a better mousetrap, someone, somewhere, is designing a more gorgeous mousetrap, the kind of mousetrap you’ll want to leave on your coffee table, even with a dead mouse in it.

And on the subject of breaking away from the traditional red extinguisher form, he asks:

That seems like a kind of a bad thing right? … [T]he traditional red fire extinguisher is a design icon in its own right and a recognizable one at that. I hope in an emergency that someone who isn’t familiar with this new version will know that it is in fact, a fire extinguisher and will think to look on the counter for it instead of in the closet.

That’s actually a really good point!

Besides, red fire extinguishers already look pretty cool, I think. That’s what I want to own: red ones. The classic.

On (not in) the bag

Interesting post on the Elsewares blog about a company called Mobi working with Todd Oldham on some snappy-looking sandwich bags:

The problem is that this product has nothing at all to do with design. It’s just packaging (which, like all packaging, ends up in the trash). I’m climbing up on my soapbox here, but I don’t think design is about making things look different with shapes and color, but about creating innovative solutions. Even if these bags were made of recycled plastic (they’re not), aren’t they just non-biodegradable garbage waiting to happen?

The company itself replied to his post, saying that it is shifting “biodegradable plastic” in the near future, and insisting that these bags are “recyclable.” Elsewares likes the biodegradable plastic news, but checked into whether plastic sandwich bags can be easily recycled, and found mixed answers.

My own take on this is that I remain suspicious of things like snappy-looking sandwich bags. When will the general strategy of adding “good design” to mundane objects run its course? I guess when it stops being such an easy way to jack up margins. Which hasn’t happened yet.

Snakes on Your Sense of Individuality

Rather early in the life of Consumed, I had a column in which I used the phrase, “the tyranny of Good Design,” and observed that, sometimes, it feels as if every object you’ve ever owned, no matter how mundane, will need to be replaced simply because it’s not stylish enough, and fails to express Who You Really Are.

The latest example, via Popgadget: “These charming Snake Bike Locks sold by Pylones are a wonderful way to differentiate your bicycle from the countless masses.”

That’s something you need to do. You need to differentiate your bicycle from the countless masses. Only $27.