When Designers do not Understand what they are Communicating
I usually write posts like this over at TDOET.com (The Design of Everyday Things), but this one I though to share it here as it requires a more in depth discussion.
My colleague brought this to my attention at the local hotel loo. This fairly handsome vertical hand dryer by ToTo was filled with discarded paper towers. A vertical hand dryer uses high speed air, directed downwards, to blow excess water off your hand after washing it.
We thought it was a fluke, but the few other times I visited the loo, I noticed it was either empty or filled up with paper towels. The silly thing is that the paper towel dispenser, with a trash bin at the bottom of it, sits just across the room from this dryer.
So why do people mistake this hand dryer for a trash bin?
While the design of this product is not bad, I suspect the designer did not truly understand what the design language was communicating when the product was created.
Let me elaborate:
1) The choice of color is similar to that of steel trash bins.
2) The semantics of the rectangle shape of the hand dryer and the narrow opening triggers a person’s familiarity of a trash bins. Therefore paper towers are probably discarded in it without much of a thought.
This product can be improved in a number of ways. Here are my suggestions. Firstly I anticipate that this product is not one that people are familiar with. Therefore there is an unique opportunity to create a distinct design language or identity for this product. Secondly we could break open the sides of this product and created a distinct “U” shaped channel that stretches from edge to edge. This way people would not read it as a container but an object with a clearly different function.
If you are interested in learning more, check out my post “Think of Creating a Language Rather than a Form” for another angle.