(Previously titled “Designers” in 2013.)

As our parasite riddled and increasingly polluted globe hurtles through space and time, there have been a few constants. As certain as a morning sunrise, or the contractually-obligated assurance that you’ll see and hear from Tom Waterhouse approximately ninety-eight times during each NRL football match – change is the pulse of life.

Sure, Tom did eventually get kicked off the NRL commentary panel – but if the Nine executives weren’t smart enough to work out whether he was a “sponsor” or a “contributor”, and they weren’t – they at least knew they needed to clarify further for you, the apparently ignorant home viewer. Executives and their self-reassurances aside, Tom’s certainly still there pissing you off, only now confined in his own little segment. Never mind that obnoxious watermarks and branded microphones are being used to groom kids about the importance sport betting odds from an early age – loose change is a necessary evil part of life.

But when does a change reach the point of absurdity – simply because of it’s lack of purpose? As the old saying goes: “Don’t fix something that ain’t broken”.

VirtualB

This is a Nintendo Virtual Boy. Someone designed this, and then no one bought it. You probably have no idea what this thing is but let me assure you, it’s one of the worst pieces of design you’ll ever see. A six battery powered, neck-break standing, retina-burning red and black 3D screened ‘portable’ dynamo.   Here’s a convenient Wikipedia article where you can read all about what a giant failure it was. I also happen to own one (and it’s great).

Recently a friend of mine called out for help with a small problem – his girlfriends car had a busted tire. No big deal, you just put the spare on and go about your business right? If you’re a, as my friend referred to it, “poverty pack” customer of the Ford motor company, think again. In fact, you should now be thinking about how you can get rid of your vehicle in the fastest manner possible – whether you have to set it on fire or arrange a theft, just sort it out.

If the thought of owning such a vehicle is painful for you already, you could just choose to end it all right now. Suicide is definitely a better option than dealing with the realization of just how absurd the decision making was in regards to certain design aspects of your expensive lemon. Allow me to elaborate.

The aforementioned vehicle does not have a spare tyre. Instead, it has a chemical pump. To plug small holes – in a stop-gap measure I assume is meant to last the duration of a trip to the closest Ford service center, where they could subsequently charge you a lot to replace the aforementioned tyre. What about this kind of hole?

wheel

This is a real picture of the actual tyre. The extent of the damage was not obvious until it was removed.

As you’ll soon find, you have nothing! Just the reality of a hopelessly flat flat, and an expensive two-tonne, hopelessly stranded vehicle. It doesn’t matter if your ten or two hundred kilometres from the local town center – you’re fucked. All because a designer decided on this as a company cost-saving solution for a spare tyre rather than a practical one.

So I pick up my hopelessly stricken friends from some distance away and pledge help to secure a replacement the next morning. In the meantime, we had to leave the car on top of a mountain. Alone. Cold. Stricken. Even if they’d wanted someone to steal and torch it by this point, it wasn’t going anywhere. I guess they could have just torched it where it was…

Anyway sure enough, the sun arose for another day and I’m once again collecting my friend – who’s glued to the phone trying to arrange a new wheel to save us a trip up the mountain. Simply buying a new steel wheel shouldn’t be hard, surely? They’ve had a standard for decades!

Think again.

Our friends at Ford™ also decided, in their infinite wisdom of course, that they should also be the only provider of replacement wheels for this vehicle. Why? THEY HAVE CUSTOM WHEEL MOUNTS. A Ford standard mount. Meaning no competitors stock replacements. As well as the forthcoming rage included free as part of the Ford “poverty pack” – furthering the initially exciting discovery of no spare tyre – you’ll soon find yourself even more excited to discover that you have no jack. And you also have no toolkit.

We quickly determined this, ten minutes of raging and three in-vain searches of the stricken car later.

I should’ve taken heed of the disappointing reality regarding custom wheel mounts before I drove back up the mountain, but alas we soon discovered the wheel nuts were one size smaller than my cars own kit as well. Enlightened (with rage) at these facts, we soon found ourselves jetting the entire distance back to my house to retrieve a socket set, and back to finally remove the damn wheel. Then all the way back into town for a replacement. Then all the way back up to fit it. This process took somewhere upwards of five hours with the distances and waiting involved. All because someone designed a custom bolt layout with no discernible advantages, and a car with no other reasonable solutions for a flat tyre.

Fuck Ford. Did they expect us to tow the thing because of a flat? Please.

Scrouge

“Ha ha! look at all this money we generated by changing something that didn’t need changing!” – Ford, 20xx

There was no god damn reason to design it like that other than money. Having to get a car towed because it’s got a simple flat does not help someone get to work faster – shit design decisions like this just inconvenience everyone. Their pointless departure from standard wasn’t revolutionary, so why was it even done? It wasn’t as if they went, “We have this awesome new design for wheel bolts that will strengthen wheels and save us millions! Hazzah!”, it was an “I LOVE MONEY! MONEY YUM YUM!” decision from a proverbial Scrooge McDuck. I’m sure they’re PR team wouldn’t give me anything other than some bullshit spin about the Ford mounts being better for their wheels. Excuse me while I spin away from any of their dealerships instead.

Financially motivated design changes aren’t innovation, they’re greed – in these kind of situations anyway. Ever hear the old yarn about a business going broke because their products were so reliable, they never needed replacing? While not out of business, there are thirty-plus-year-old Hills Hoist clothes lines in many Australian backyards, still going strong today. While their commitment to quality is admirable, I’m sure the rugged design of a standard Hills Hoist clothes line certainly hasn’t made their business anymore money.

Arguably a lot of products are now designed and manufactured in certain ways to guarantee eventual replacement and hence, guarantee a new or continuing revenue stream sometime in the future. Just ask Samsung about my expensive Plasma TVs new job as a heavy paperweight…

Creating new to replace old unnecessarily is part of the reason we’re floating on the heavily polluted globe I alluded too earlier. We should really recycle more. As for fashion designers? I still don’t understand if that’s a thing. Are they a thing? I still can’t work out what they’re all about. Do I need one?

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