I usually write posts like this over at TDOET.com (The Design of Everyday Things), but this one I though to share it here instead 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 in the few other times I visited, I noticed it was either empty or filled up with paper towels. The silly thing is 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 too 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, and hence paper towers are discarded in it without a thought.

This product can be improved in a number of ways. Here are my suggestions. Firstly understand that this product is not one that many 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 about creating a Design Language, check out my post “Think of Creating a Language Rather than a Form” for another angle to this topic.

Original Post: http://www.designsojourn.com/when-designers-do-not-understand-what-they-are-communicating/

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