QH: Doing it wrong can be good design

The Oral-B "powered" toothbrushes have unusual buttons for controlling the on and off functions. You have to turn it on to start it - and you have to actually start it without looking at it: while it's in your mouth. What's unusual about the button:

In the case of the toothbrush in question, they used a "+" for on(and, naturally, a "-" for off). This seems wrong to me. If you could continually press it to turn it up to a higher level, then it would make sense. But there is only 1 setting, on or off.

But it works. So the design communicates its function. It makes sense. You don't have to think about it. It's "wrong" in a pure sense, but who cares: it works.

Design of buttons and knobs (or anything that functions) is about communicating the function. This can be done with texture, shapes, symbols, and words. Even on a lowly $10 toothbrush.

Friday, July 04, 2008, 12:00 AM

tagged: design, interfaces, toothbrushes, userexperience, oral-b

series: Quick Hits (38 other posts in this series)