We have a toaster. A very 'nice' toaster. Its clever. It toasts a bit slowly, but in general terms the toast that it makes is quite acceptable. Quite, but not wholly acceptable. You see, we bought a sexy brushed stainless steel-finished Russel Hobbs toaster. It was about twenty-four quid, if I remember correctly, so not very expensive, but much more expensive than the Sainsbury's own brand toaster which was only about five pounds.
It looks good in our kitchen too. Very chic, we are! But, and here's why its only quite, but not wholly acceptable: it cannot toast a whole slice of bread! A standard slice of bread is deeper than the slots provided, meaning that the top of the slice is about 50 mm from the nearest glowing element. You get hot bread at the top and toast at the bottom.
Note the tartan effect on the toast and see too, that there is uneven coverage of toastiness. Unforgivable. Call the design Police!
We also have a kettle that suffers from similar design flaws (no, it doesn't only boil the bottom half of the water!). Our kettle (Kenwood) is incapable of delivering a neat pouring action. It splatters water all over the show no matter how carefully or slowly you pour. For Heaven's sake, a kettle has just two functions, to boil water and to pour the said boiled water.
How do these products make it into the shops? Does no one think to see if the toaster will accept a standard slice of bread? Did no one figure that most people get a wee bit tetchy when boiling water goes almost everywhere but into the cup at which it is aimed? Don't even get me started about clear plastic fridge shelves that don't even have the strength to hold a litre of Coke (I wouldn't dare burden those flimsy shelves with the weight of a four pack of Kronenbourg) or the bloody controls on our hob (Neff) that are positioned so that they melt. And there's our hopeless (but stylish) Brabantia bin, that whilst tall and elegantly slim is unable to accept anything other than elegantly slim rubbish. Which doesn't exist.
A stripped down toaster or kettle in its most basic form, without its designer "shell" would probably function beautifully. Then along come the designers and the sacrifice of function begins...
I'm a designer. Okay, in a different field of design, but this sort of thing embarrasses me. My profession starts to look dodgy and people have reasons to be skeptical about us. I hate the arrogance of many designers, either in product, interiors or graphics, who are more obsessed about making a personal statement about themselves than delivering a sound, well founded piece of work where they have allowed the necessary functionality to live comfortably alongside the form.
I'm reminded of Mr Bean, when he pulled a trout or mackerel or what ever it was from his pocket to test a frying pan in the kitchen department of a large department store. Perhaps we should carry a slice of bread with us into the toaster shop. A bucket of water into a kettle shop? No. We should rely on designers to design properly. Here endeth the wishful thinking.