Killer Design

Killer Design

What comes to mind when you think of possible consequences of bad design? Of a badly designed product or service? You might think the product generates less revenues. Or a rise in the number of product returns, and unhappy, angry or disappointed customers. Right?

But what about death? Of animals? Or worse, death of children?

In my book, I discussed IKEA‘s water dispensers for pets that were resulting in pet deaths. Why did that happen? Possibly because wizards on the IKEA product design team were lazy enough to use stuffed animals instead of real ones to test their design.

Think that’s bad? Enter IKEA (again!).

This time, for their dressers (a chest of drawers). Around 2016 and 2017, about 8 children (hopefully not more) died, thanks to IKEA dressers. The dressers designed in such a way, that when young children would open them and perhaps lean on to the drawer, they would tip over, crushing or badly injuring the kid.

Image: source

The company had to recall over 29 million dressers! It recently launched a new line of dressers that had finally solved the ‘tipping over’ problem by preventing more than one drawer from being left open at a time.

Now, what is worse than a poorly designed product?

When the company cuts corners, misleads, and denies they have a bad or flawed product.

That is where American toy manufacturing giant Mattel‘s subsidiary company Fisher-Price comes in. In 2009, Fisher-Price launched a product that would be a runaway success – their Rock-n-Play inclined sleeper for babies.

Image: source

Fisher-Price sold over 4.7 million of their inclined sleepers to parents, who probably thought it to be a boon to take away the agony of putting their baby to sleep. Based on some information about how children sleep better when held at an angle, they built the Rock-n-Play.

Instead of first conducting clinical research to validate the design, all Fisher-Price did was consult one family physician in all. One!

Eight years after its launch, following a lawsuit, Fisher-Price consulted a paediatrician about their product for the first time. Because of the lawsuit. The result of this callous approach to the design of a product for none other than infants, who require constant attention and utmost care, was the unfortunate death of over 35 babies!

One argument is that countries like the US don’t rely enough on regulators to endure product safety. And you might agree, especially in the case of smaller companies perhaps replicating a successful product.

But that can never be the excuse even for a moment for a now 89-year old company, Fisher-Price. The gross negligence in research, design and development of a product that could present potential risk of death.

Never stop when you think you’ve found what looks like a perfect solution. Especially when lives might depend on it.

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.