Unpleasant Design: design that bullies its users

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I’m reminded of nearly every airport bench I’ve had to use–surely the Camden Bench was used as a prototype.


Really? I find the Camden Bench remarkably comfortable. Granted, I’m oddly proportioned and exceptionally lumpy.

Airport seating is designed for the first ten minutes of your three hour layover.


Sounds like Facebook. Hostile to my wellbeing. social circles and sanity.


It is comfortable if you wish to do one of two approved activities:

  1. Sit on it alone.
  2. Sit on it with two other people.

If you want to do anything else with it, it isn’t comfortable and is, in fact, designed to subvert/block your other uses.


The “unpleasant design” label begs the question of whether it’s less pleasant than all the things it’s designed to be inhospitable to. There’s a series of ledges in an outdoor train station plaza near me that is set at a angle unpleasant to lay on, but if all I want to do is sit and not compete with sleeping homeless for the privilege, I’m ok with that design decision. Sneering at the realities of modern urban life is elitist,and the alternative of using law enforcement to maintain quality of life seems far less desirable to these passive designs.


Those are two of my favorite things! Granted, I haven’t been lucky enough to do the second one, though. Someday…

I both get comfortable and help the community by hiring a hobo to sit on.


In spite of the designer’s best efforts, people can be awfully creative when sleeping is required…


Are you John Hodgman in disguise?


“But if everyone except you has pigeon spikes, your home will be covered in all the pigeon shit for the whole population of pigeons.”

And imagine if you have the only regular benches in town - every homeless skateboarder in the area will be all over it, sleeping and/or grinding.


where’s the drug dealer in your scenario?


“Have published” in what sense? It doesn’t seem to be available until July 28 and if the goal is to promote the book it seems likely that many people who are interested now will have forgotten about it by then.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to hold off on this story until the book is actually available?

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Let’s just cut to the chase…

SuperMAX prison cell design.


Out selling to all of the pigeons, obviously!


Why are we all wasting time writing witty comments when we should be dealing with the myriad societal shortcomings that lead to homelessness???


Because, when it’s a choice between laughing and crying at systemic examples of abuse and how deeply rooted they are embedded into the very fabric of our society, laughter is the healthier option, and the subversive one, at that. In making the system of abuse a thing of mockery, we reduce its impact, even if just a little bit on the level of emotions.


Like lack of good, free mental health care? We are in Austin for the week, having come down from the mountains for a rare shopping/movie break. Yesterday, I saw a guy walking down South Lamar having an animated screaming match with invisible persons. That is probably a normal sight for many of you, but I find it hard to get used to. That particular guy is probably not representative of the homeless population, but I imagine he is what people are thinking of when they design benches and ledges like the one that are the subject of the article. It is hard to balance basic compassion with worry about the safety of your children.


It’s very easy to not be compassionate, yes.

Screaming persons are much more likely to hurt themselves or be preyed upon by others than they are to hurt you.


Preventing homeless people from sleeping = safer children? Are unconscious homeless people really that big of a threat to your kids?


Oh, I have no doubt that this poor fellow is the sort of person that the long chain of humans that make the decisions to choose, purchase, design, construct, and install these sorts of benches have in mind. The homeless individual (also invisible to most people, by the way, so perhaps the people to which he was talking were just more homeless people), is, to my view, the least mentally damaged person in this whole line. Could the money spent on these types of benches, ledges, etc. help people like that? I guess we’ll never know, but crap, at least they won’t be hanging around downtown where normal people can see them, amirite?