Why Bad Design Is Good for the Soul – Part 2

Nobody Likes a victim

Recently my wife and I replaced our wooden frame and boxspring assembly with a frame-foundation combination from Overstock.com. It was well reviewed and the picture made it look pretty attractive – as far as basic metal frames go.

The misgivings began to set in when I opened the box and two of the screw-in “leveling” feet were broken – no biggie, nothing a little glue can’t fix.

Hmmm, “adjustable height”? Technically yes. Either 12 inches high, or 16. Again, no biggie – 16 inches is great.

Attaches to any headboard? Not so much. The two adapter plates that were included didn’t even come close to matching up with the headboard we bought from Pier 1. This is where my buns got really frosted – if I can’t attach the headboard, then the frame is nearly useless.

So I try it at the 12 inch height. That gets me closer. But I still had to measure and cut new holes in the steel adapter plates in order to match up with the headboard. The end result is wobbly, but workable, like a new-born antelope.

The whole time I behaved like a victim, cursing the designer and the manufacturer. I had the fabricating skills to compensate for their shortcomings, but the end result is still sub-standard.

I would have made a better product.

But I didn’t. I’m not even planning on returning it – for reasons too convoluted to explain here.

This all got me thinking – could there be a benefit to bad design, both as a creative and a user? I’ve heard it said that you should give yourself permission to make bad art (either Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way or Steven Pressfield in The War of Art). What about engaging with bad design?

It’s easy to pretend that good design is how the world ought to be. It isn’t. It’s the exception, not the norm.

Bad design is like a germ that activates your immune system. It makes you stronger.

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