Bad Design by Example

I was shopping at our local Ace Hardware store this afternoon with my wife, and I saw this package of SUPERthrive™ hanging in the aisle (image shows front and back of packaging). Having recently returned from our MIX07 conference in Las Vegas and hearing so much about user experience and good design, I purchased a bottle to illustrate what I’d consider very bad design. Granted, I’m not a designer by trade, and one could argue that I was compelled to buy a product I have no need for (score one for SUPERthrive), but even with those two points against me, I think you’ll agree.

To start, what a mess! I’m not even sure what to read. It took me a few seconds to figure out the name of the product…certainly not a good thing. There’s also no use of white space; to the contrary, the “design” seems to want to take up every available nook and cranny of the packaging. There’s no sense of alignment, and even with my limited designer skills, I count at least eight different fonts (how many can you find?).

If you decide to actually read all of the text (click the image for a larger view), I can tell you that it’ll take some time. You will be rewarded, though. Check out some of these claims:

  • Greatest Guarantee-Offer PROOF Ever (say what?)
  • 65 YEARS, unchallenged, $5,000 GUARANTEED to be World CHAMPION (hmmm…)
  • Dozens OF THE WORLD’S science MIRACLES IN EACH DROP! (I assume this text goes together, and I’m intrigued about the miracles I might witness when using the product)
  • Unchallenged guarantees — proven best. 5 ways, on every continent, by millions of people on billions of plants. (can someone send us up the bomb?)
  • “Best product known, for any purpose.” — say many leaders. (my favorite claim of all…makes me feel confident that I’ve purchased the right stuff)
  • TO START NEW ROOT AND FOLIAGE ACTION, SHOOTING DOWN, UP and filling-in, sidewise (sounds like the Wonkavater)
  • SUPERthrive saves plants from waiting to make many life-process complexes, carbon-hydrogen-oxygen groups. (gonna have to pull out my sixth grade science textbook to figure this one out)
  • NON-WARRANTY: Makers cannot be responsible for use, whether or not thought to be according to directions (which have seemed valuable to 100% of users following them.) (NON-warranty???)
  • Lifts the world (not sure how to test this claim)

Oh…it looks like they used the same designer to assemble their SUPERthrive web site. Don’t miss the Questions & Answers page.

I haven’t used SUPERthrive myself, so I can’t make any claims about its effectiveness. For all I know, it could be a fantastic product. Please don’t let my comments about the package design prevent you from giving it a try.

I’d love to hear some feedback! What do you think about the design?

Comments (15)

  1. Andrew says:

    Hey, at least I know what this product is for after seeing the package!  I am still trying to figure out Microsoft Live.  There should be a life tie in right?  The other day I got sucked into clicking the Microsoft Dynamics link.  There’s an aneurysm worth of marketing fluff there.  I can’t figure out how you can write a whole web page without using a noun.

  2. Lorgor says:

    The old traditional package design. Well, MS’s product packaging look a bit better, don’t you think? 😛

    Just kidding, but that is the same thing MS get blamed for age on its software & package design — and it changing from what I have seen this day.

  3. Ross Dargan says:

    Microsoft Re-Designs the Ipod Packaging a bit old, but very funny!



  4. Sam says:

    Hey, I always wondered who buys stuff in a messed-up package like that. I mean, someone has to buy things looking like this, otherwise this kind of package would not be there, wouldnt it?

    It can’t only be bought by people who want to show how awful the design is, to sell stuff to some people this must be the right design obviously.

  5. Marc Laroche says:

    Still, I’d be interested to know if only 1/10th of it is true.

    Have you started using the product at home?!

  6. Chris says:

    Rumor has it that the designer tried it (before designing) …

  7. Jon says:

    You seriously need to submit this to Jay Leno’s Headlines. 😉

  8. Person says:

    Yep, a horrible design

    BUT, the product work wonders in agricultural terms.

    its a great plant fertilizer!!

  9. Ken Ford says:

    Yes, terrible communication, but it does me the service of making the product easy to pass up; I assume little good sense behind it. A mistake according to some of your testimony, but one I’ll often accept to cut down the options.

    I ended up here looking for an outlook solution: my right click suddenly stopped unblocking automatically blocked pictures. I get only red x’s. What to do?

  10. Dan says:

    All your packaging are belong to us!  🙂

  11. You know, people who design stuff like that really need to be forced to sit in a room with TV screens

  12. Maxx Daymon says:

    Wow. It’s horrific. I may have to close my eyes for a while to let them heal.

    I think the packaging *is* the fertilizer in this case.

  13. Dizzy. says:

    I LOVE the packaging that Superthrive uses. It is old school. A throwback to the 40s & 50s. Thats why its so cool. It is an OUTSTANDING product for gardeners. Its used by lots of professional greenhouse operations as well. The stuff is great.

  14. Danny says:

    To the contrary, I think the guy behind that design has a wacky sense of humor. That’s just funny!