Design flaws of Method soap

I love good design. No surprise there.

However, there’s a time when sharp design clouds common sense – when the idea of making something look great takes precedence over usability. Sure, that font might look cool, but what happens if it causes an “i” and “r” to fuse together? That shirt you’re talking about just turned into shit.

For weeks, I’ve experienced the sad triumph of design over usability every time I try to wash the dishes.

We often purchase Method cleaning products – a design-friendly, super-green company, an antithesis of your typical mass-market mega-companies (Proctor and Gamble, for instance). They’re available at Target, and now at our local HyVee stores.

The company is founded on two things: biodegradable, Earth-positive products and great design. In fact, one of the founders was a graphic designer. He had experience in style and branding, and sought a way to introduce design to the home care industry.

Admittedly, this is a selling point to Kerrie and me. We enjoy nicely designed products, so we were instantly drawn in by Method’s clean bottles and unobtrusive labels. When you look at the over-bright, seizure-inducing labels that appear on most home care product, you understand the allure.

Unfortunately, Method’s dish soap holds a serious flaw.

The plastic bottle it comes in is impossible to use.

Method soapTake a look. The bottle looks pretty sharp. It’s sleek and it would look nice on your counter. You would pick up the bottle at the store and hold it and fall in love with the design.

Then you take it home. With wet hands, you reach for it.


Right out of your hands. Into the water. Go ahead – try turning the top knob to get soap out. Haha – the joke’s on you! Our soap happens to be under the counter, so we have to try to pick the bottle up from the top – a near impossible feat with wet hands.

The tapered top looks great. But it’s not practical. The rounded corners of the spout make the bottle look modern. But they’re also not practical. This is a product designed to look great. Not to work great. Those strong, sturdy shoulders on the typical bottle of Dawn? They seem so necessary now.

I will buy things because they are designed well. I will stop and read ads that look good. I will be drawn to people who put forth a well-designed personality. And the most frustrating thing in these cases is when the design is just that – all design, no substance, lacking the most common sense workability functions. It’s as if the ideas were never bounced off of anyone, the product created in a vacuum with hopes of a grand unveiling.

Do you have the next great design idea? Lay it on us. But make sure that it’s more than just packaging. Make sure that you test it out first before sending it out into the world to fend for itself. Because if no one will ever remember your art if they can’t get the soap out.

This was lovingly handwritten on December 19th, 2007