Unpleasant Design

“Design should be about solving problems, not hiding them” – Extra Credits, 2018

While hunting for the link to a video I had previously seen about level design, I came across another I had viewed before that confronts the issues of unpleasant design. I wanted to bring the issue to attention because I feel like many people walk past examples of unpleasant design every day without realizing why it’s made the way it is.

The gist of unpleasant design is essentially that something is created in order to deter a certain subset of people from using it. Examples include using metal bars in the middle of benches to discourage homeless people from sleeping there or blue lights used in bathrooms to stop drug users from using heroine inside.

Sure, these tactics may keep an area cleaner and more pleasant for the general populace to be around, but these issues are only masked for a short while – like plugging holes temporarily with gum while a ship continues to sink. Homelessness and drug use run rampant, especially here in the Seattle-area. People dealing with these issues just move from one place to another when unpleasant design is added by politicians trying to shove the real problems into the back of their minds.

I know the topics of homelessness and drug abuse are much more complicated than I’m making it sound, but these are problems that need to be fixed or else in the end, nobody is happy. As citizens of a democracy, we should care about the rights of everyone. We have to be aware of the ethics surrounding these unsettling additions of unpleasant design and address the real issues at hand – not hide them. We need to make sure our votes go to people actually willing to solve these problems and find the money to add more wellness programs for people in need (both mental and financial).

You can view the video where I learned about unpleasant design down below:


1 thought on “Unpleasant Design”

  1. Thanks for bringing up this issue. While I’ve heard of this concept before it is a good reminder that these are issues that need to be a topic of conversation. It’s also interesting to note that this is something I can often conveniently forget about since I do not suffer personally from unpleasant design. I think you are very much correct in noting that these are temporary bandaids to serious problems. I’d be curious what research has been done about the effects (negative or positive) of unpleasant design.

    Liked by 1 person

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