Poor Design

I have come to the conclusion that so often the people who design things have never actually used them.

Everything mankind has was designed by someone. We live in design. So why are we so poor at it?

Architects who have never lived in an apartment, visited a mall or have a clue what function their design is to house. Transportation ‘experts’ who have never taken a bus, driven a car or been a hapless pedestrian or cyclist. They have not seen the area in question other than as a google map. Sometimes, I am sure, the only thing that is considered is how much revenue will be generated, without a thought to virtually everything else; traffic flow, the environment, the neighborhood or anything.

I watch condominiums pop up like strip malls once did, and I marvel at how little thought was put into the actual living conditions of its future residents. Balconies are the biggest offender; offset so the people above you can look directly down onto yours; adjoining balconies that unscrupulous neighbors can easily visit your apartment, or listen in to all your outdoor conversations, or you have to endure all theirs with radios and children blasting. Access to the balcony is through your bedroom (who was the genius that thought that up?!) Inside we have small cut up rooms and doors so large that you have huge wall space you cannot use. Facts, such as we have 8 months of harsh winter are ignored. We need good fitting, sealed thermo glass windows. We don’t need tiled courtyards that become skating rinks. We have concerns about increased traffic on residential roads – Oh! The list is a long one for us ‘box’ dwellers.

Don’t even get me started on buses!

Poor design is rampant; exposed wires and mechanical parts on things subjected to the elements. Things so hard to use or so needlessly complicated, (think computer programs or electronics here), designed to look futuristic, sexy or whatever but are buggers to use. One function actually has 5 equally useless functions, pressing 1 takes you back to the beginning so you have 10 functions to wade back through. Small almost invisible buttons located where you normally hold an item so they get pressed when you don’t want. Fancy names for mundane functions so it takes a long time to figure out what the heck it really does. Another long list.

Many companies are not open to suggestions from the people who use their items daily and know what works, and what doesn’t.

The absolute worst however, is manuals, or rather the lack of manuals, cleverly (I say this word because those who did this think it is very forward thinking) replaced by tutorials. Manuals can be poorly written and illustrated, missing key points and diagrams, too much technical jargon and a lot of ‘you should already know what to do stupid’, but tutorials rely on you asking the right question in a technical language you are not privy to and this can soon get me screaming. Give me an index!

The best design of anything is something that addresses the primary function(s) of the object in question and then considers a lot of other factors around this, without losing sight of the main objective and going cutesy, artsy or futuristic. Making it look nice should be the last consideration, not the first.

I love simple, easy to use and ‘clean design’ (something that also looks good). Oh and some design is so brilliant it takes my breath away. I am awed by those trying to solve the problems of our ever changing world, who are environmental and people sensitive. You know – improving our and our fellow creatures lives.

You probably already know what I am about to say – we don’t need another damn telephone, 10,000 Teslas, a wall, or more rockets and junk floating up in space! Our world needs help!

Great design comes from those who realize the fun part of designing is the process; the research, the prototypes, the puzzles that need to be solved, and that it is an ongoing process, the tweaking can be endless, there are always new advances in technology and materials, the purpose of items evolves too.

Great design is making something that actually improves peoples lives and our world.

Like tutorials, ask the right question first. What are the main function(s)/purpose(s)/consideration(s) of this thing? And then keep on asking.

February BLAHS

By far the most agonizing part of my year is the one long month in three parts, January, February and March.

January begins with a tease of extreme temperatures, from near absolute zero to tropics. It thaws and freezes in daily cycles. February decides to be eye ball freezing cold mixed with some nice bouts of freezing rain and truck loads of snow, so that when March arrives we have four feet of slush.

February is particularly hard on my nerves with overcrowded, never on time or no show buses, that frequently get stuck in the snow, and our city is turned into a parking lot at rush hours. My 5km commute can become 3-4 hours of agony. It wasn’t always this bad, but the city’s poor transportation management is to blame for a large portion of it now.

I get tired of lugging not only myself, but half my wardrobe with me everywhere I go, layering is not a fashion statement, but a necessity. Dressing for extreme cold and deep snow puts a whole new perspective on ‘just popping over to the corner store’. You must prepare before you go out, and this can take up to a half hour. And bringing home even a jug of milk and a loaf of bread can seem like hauling a load of bricks, the weight of such is proportional to the distance you must travel. It increases by at least 10 pounds for every block you walk.

Salt leaves its trademark white undulating lines on boots and coats. Gravel and sand soon make a pathway in your house.

The only reason why I go out at this time of year is to go to some place warm, as my apartment is often very cold. I have an indoor winter coat that I sometimes have to wear. This is the plight of many fellow apartment and condo dwellers in our city. We build buildings and infrastructure with a California spirit and neglect the reality of our harsh winters. Our ridiculous laws are also rather optimistic; must be 72 F during the day (seldom attained) and 68 F at night, which translates to 60 F in reality because it never reached 72 F during the day (why do they turn it down at night?!). No need to turn on the heat until October 12th and off it goes by April. The only thing that is warm on many a Thanksgiving is the turkey. Perhaps this is a clever ploy to keep us going to work. Otherwise we would realize we are nuts to go out and stay home.

The upside is, we are heading towards spring, instead of away from it. The days are quite noticeably longer. Every once in a while the sun comes out and you can feel its increasing strength. And lo and behold! I saw some very brave or crazy song birds have returned.

Employed Single

I recently read an interesting article about the perceptions employed married persons have of their fellow single workers, and it brought back a lot of memories.

I find what happened in the past amusing, but at the time was frustrating. Those were the days when women were on a whole different level in the working world.

Today I enjoy working for and with single women and these issues are gone from my life. Well, mostly.

It sometimes happened that I cohabited (in those days we said cohabited to make it sound formal. To our friends, it was ‘living together’ until common law came into existence). But since this was not a recognized form of attachment I would still be treated as a single person, but with a moral problem.

When it was time for raises, I was informed I didn’t need one because I was single and didn’t need as much money as married people. If anything, I needed more because I only had one income, they had two!

Of course, as a single woman I must be sitting at home doing nothing, and therefore my free time belonged to the company. I was once called a coward because I refused to continue giving up my Saturdays to do work at home that my married co-workers couldn’t possibly do, because, well, they are married!

I was frequently called in during my vacations to do menial work or take care of a crisis that married workers could not deal with, well, because they are married! I still have a bit of trouble keeping my vacations to myself even in my current situation but for different reasons.

If anything needed doing in my life, there was only me to do it. I seldom had the luxury of assistance from a partner to run errands, fix things, or take care of anything. Yet to try and have time off for an appointment was difficult because it was believed as a single person I somehow didn’t need to do anything that married people do. I never had major issues, well, because, I am single! Anything greater than the flu was not believed.

I was told I have the world by the balls, like I didn’t have any responsibilities or concerns, and I could do virtually anything. In reality, the world often had me. I had debts. I had an ailing Mother to care for. I often felt insecure and alone and had no safety net. I didn’t have any back up financially or otherwise, so to venture out on my own was very risky. I longed to go back to school, and I did, and it was scary as a ‘mature single student’, watching my hard earned savings dwindling and the debt rising. I wanted to start my own business and have at last, but I never had someone to catch me if I fell. My debts are my own.

My married co-workers and bosses had houses, cars and exotic vacations. These are luxuries I seldom got to enjoy as a low income earner. Whenever I would go on vacation to another place it was frowned upon – a single woman going where??? And they would wonder where I got the money from. Why would a single woman want a house? Or need a car? Ah, those were the days. . .


There is this strange phenomena that happens when I decide to do a major purge of stuff.

It does not seem to matter how much crap I discard, trash, give away or recycle, my place still looks the same.

This is how it has been all my life. Does this happen to anyone else?

I have spent the last 4 weekends on a major purge. I donated bags and bags of clothes – mostly suits I wore when I worked in a office, along with the dreaded killer high heels (glad to be rid of those – though I did try a pair on, just in case I thought I still could manage a 20 something swagger.)

I redid my studio and made a lot of wanna be artists happy as I unloaded truck loads of paper, pens, pencils and other more artsy stuff into their eager hands. But as I sit here, do I really have any more room? Hmmm. Well, it is cleaner. . . and I got some new better stuff. . .

I guess it is because of my organizational style. That whatever I keep, I now arrange it to suit me, so it just takes the space of the gone stuff. But my clothes closet is not any more roomy, and I did not buy more clothes. I think it must be that my living spaces shrink and expand according to what is in them. Or during the night things secretly reproduce.

At any rate, I feel better. Getting rid of those suits ensured I will never go back to working in an administrative office ever YAY! And getting new and more suitable art equipment is a step in the right direction for the kind of future I want.

I would love to get a bigger place to live – but it’ll expand and contract just like my little apartment. At night things will multiply while I sleep. Next morning I’ll look in my closet and say “I thought I got rid of that”, or in my studio “How is it I now have 3 of these?” No, I haven’t shopped and forgot – yet.