Go Ugly

As I sit here staring at my sleek new iPhone 3GS, I’m thinking about the design sensibility that led Apple to ditch a keypad altogether for the simplicity of a touchscreen. Makes it a little more difficult to type but certainly helps the design.
Product developer, John Edson writes on Fast Company why ugly products also sell:

The nightmare for product managers is working for months on a new product launch only to see their brainchild fail because the market says, “Ew, are you kidding me? That’s ugly!” I think this is the reason why so many things we buy are just ‘nice’: They are perfectly fine products that focus on their functional appeal while borrowing their aesthetic from some other successful thing on the market.
In a recent focus group, we were getting feedback on preferences and habits related to certain electronic products. “They should all be black and silver,” declared a rather vocal leader in the group. Everyone else nodded in submission. “Yes, black and silver,” they droned. Then the moderator pulled out her Motorola Cobalt phone, a lustrous blue folding number with silver trim. Everyone ogled the phone. And they changed their votes.

Target has been very successful taking mundane objects and adding a splash of design to it. But like everything else, design is subjective. Think of Uggs, or Crocs. Lots of people think they’re ugly, but they’ve been successful. I guess sometimes people don’t know what they want until they see it.
Do you own something you like that everyone else thinks is ugly?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. if my nose was as ugly as one man told me it was (indirectly) why would i have given it to my eldest son?

  2. Correction: People never know what they want until they see it.

  3. Good correction, Bob.