In yesterday’s International Herald Tribune, design critic Alice Rawsthorn wrote about the increasing number of design failures in commercial products today: Why the overwhelming numbers of design flops? – International Herald Tribune [link updated]. What does she consider to be a design failure? Something that’s “not especially efficient or environmentally responsible” … “nor are they lovely to look at, to touch and to use…”.

Given our recent comments here about the many new home espresso machines that are destined to be little more than landfill, this particular paragraph resonated with us:

2. Change for change’s sake.

This often happens when an industry scents sudden sales growth. A regrettable example is the espresso machine. The classic Italian machines, like lovely old Gaggias, were fantastic: simply styled, no-nonsense exercises in engineering. But, as soon as Starbucks‘s success convinced the espresso industry that there was money to be made by persuading us to make a latte or macchiato at home, manufacturers start to mess with their machines. Cue the new breed of fiddly, fussy, over-styled espresso machines.

Everytime I take a step into a Williams-Sonoma or a Sur La Table and come across most of what they’re pushing for home espresso machines these days, I feel the urge to fire up a bulldozer.

UPDATE: Jan. 24, 2010
Because we’re not the only ones who harp on the same issues over again, Ms. Rawsthorn repeated her rant in today’s New York Times: Design – When More Is Decidedly Less – NYTimes.com. To wit:

Take the current crop of espresso machines. They’re the SUVs of the modern kitchen. Too big. Too blingy. Too tricksy. Too much. My vote for the worst offender goes to Casa Bugatti’s ridiculously overwrought diVa. The silly name says it all, and the over-complicated spelling makes it worse.