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Objects of Desire Smart Consumers

I’ve been helping my wife pick out a new laptop. She needs a PC. Never having had to actually look for a new PC Laptop, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Well, I’ve found a lot of rather clunky, heavy, ugly products out there. I have a new appreciation for the affordable, sexy iBooks. I fear that even though we both know she needs a PC, we’ll regret not getting an iBook instead.

Which brings up the topic of buyer’s remorse.

We all desire certain products, but often, for a lot of us, we end up making the final decision based on price instead of design. We proudly save $20 only to slowly realize that had we spent that extra $20 on the better designed product, we’d not only be better off in terms of enjoying said product, but probably further ahead financially since we’ve now thrown the cheaper product against the wall in frustration.

What are your objects of ‘smart consumerism’? What better-designed everyday products have you purchased that, though they may have cost a bit more, were worth every penny. I’m not looking for comparisons between Civics and Audi’s but rather looking for the better toothbrush or toaster.

Here’s my example to get things started:

Sitting through the (long, rather boring, IMHO) Big Fish movie this past week, a small, scene featuring a beautiful Kloss desktop radio painfully reminded me of the cheap piece of plastic sitting on my desk at work that, if I’m lucky, and it’s cloudy, and the solar flares aren’t acting up, I can maybe pick up one station. The all-plastic construction leaves the heaviest part of it being the power cord. This causes it to constantly fall against the back wall of my desk while at the same time wrenching the volume to MAX. I’m thinking the Kloss would have served me better in the long run.

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ARCHIVE ID 1723 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Jan.15.2004 BY darrel
Garrick Van Buren’s comment is:

I too have found that the products that serve me best, that I'm continually happy with, are just priced outside my comfort level - both of these products were at least 20% more than I was planning on. I couldn't imagine a day without any of them.

Bianchi DISS

My first bicycle in nearly a decade. It's light, low-maintenance, comfortable, responsive, completely understated and will take anything Minnesota feels like throwing at it. The car-r-coffins and "your bike sucks" stickers are the icing. As an added bonus, I get a great shop to support me if anything bad happens. Thanks Gene.

Leica Digilux 1

After months and months of research, I guy I worked with had this camera. I looked at it, held it, and bought it the next day. This camera impresses me everytime I use it - and has since the day I bought it. I bought it to replace my 15 year old Pentax SLR, it has. It's also replaced my Elph and all my disposables. The automatic settings are great and everything ... yes ... everything can be adjusted manually.

On Jan.15.2004 at 06:51 PM
Michael Honey’s comment is:

Kitchen stuff. I'm a total sucker for well-designed knives and cookware. Good cookware is indefinitely useful, non-obsolescent, and gives you deep pleasure every time it's used.

My favourites:

a large saucepan by Bistro, all stainless-steel, including the handle, welded rather than screwed on. Thick bottom, tall vertical sides with a corner radius that's not too sharp, so the wooden spoon can easily get in there while stirring, tight-fitting lid with a generous dome. Despite the size, it's relatively light, so easily manipulated on the hob. I've had it for over a decade.

a Global cooks's knife which is also all-steel. Light, super-sharp. A little painful after long use as it's a bit narrow at the end of the handle.

a 26 centimetre Le Crueset red enamelled cookpot. Heavy. Rustic. Elegant. Only purchased last year, it will last me a lifetime. With a pot like this, you look forward to winter.

On Jan.15.2004 at 06:58 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Gillette Mach 3. Damn cartridges cost like $13 for four of them... I mean, it ain't much, but still. Either way, best damn shaving razor. I think I saw an ad for some other brand that had 4 blades, I'll have to look into it.

Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer. Excellent fit, good responsiveness and shiny.

On Jan.15.2004 at 07:14 PM
Michael Honey’s comment is:

Armin: you need to read this, then. V-2 gives the Schick Quattro high marks for shaving, low marks for design.

On Jan.15.2004 at 07:20 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Good review, I'll have to try Quattro then. Thanks Michael.

On Jan.15.2004 at 07:48 PM
Sam Sherwood’s comment is:

Adam Greenfield is a smart guy, and the first person to turn me onto information architecture. The Quattro is a great shave, plain and simple. Every other Schick razor has it out for my face, tho'.

I'm a sucker for electronics that might come in handy. For instance, I recently purchased the Sennheiser PX 200 headphones, and they've treated my ears especially well during the days I want to drown out my surroundings.

On the outter appearance front, I go straight for Eddie Bauer shirts and sweaters. The quality of their clothing is remarkable -- especially their spill-proof dress shirts and khakis.

Gah, I'll stop before sounding like a commercial.

On Jan.15.2004 at 08:27 PM
Scott d’s comment is:

Quick side note on the Quattro. Gillette is suing Schick and Schick quickly responded by suing Gillette over some advertising claims.

On Jan.15.2004 at 10:25 PM
k3lly ’s comment is:

Even if something is designed well, it can't get by on looks alone. I'm looking for function (following form)!

case in point:

"You spent $40.00 on a GARLIC PRESS?!"

Indeed. The R�sle garlic press not only superbly squashes even unpeeled cloves of garlic, it is shiny and feels better in my hand than even the OXO I formerly used. It is the epitome of form + function, being both attractive and supremely functional.

Believe me, I have tried a LOAD of garlic presses--not just the OXO, but many other models, from zyliss (which we promptly cracked in garlic-squooshing zeal) to IKEA (looks super-cool, is quite affordable, and could not possibly be a bigger pain in the ass to clean), and no other can leap tall buildings in a single bound. In terms of cost equivalents, I would gladly trade 5 IKEA garlic presses for The R�sle any day. It's the value of sense over cents.

On Jan.16.2004 at 01:01 AM
Jason’s comment is:

k3lly, I'm with you. I replaced my paper calendar, address book, and planner last year with a Handspring Visor Edge. Yes, I came on the bandwagon rather late and, I'm still wondering what took me so long. Still, it's not perfect. Everything isn't really centralized. I've got the palm, then my cell phone, then my mp3 player, and then email on my home system.

Perhaps in the not too distant future, I'll have an all in one iPad.

That would be smart: one object, many functions.

Courtesy of The Apple Collection

On Jan.16.2004 at 02:53 AM
marian’s comment is:

Funny, Dante and I have always laughed at those razor commercials -- Dante calls the Mach 3 "the razor you can shave your whole body with in one stroke" -- then he got a free sample in the mail and the next morning he says, rather sheepishly "You know ... that's actually a pretty good razor."

I asked him, "Did you shave your whole body?"

"Just about ..."


Oddly, for me, a couple of kitchen items:

Global knife

some kind of fancy spatula that can withstand the heat of the surface of the sun ... or boiling fudge, anyway... the best damned spatula on the planet

The Apple flat screen.

Both my manual cameras (Nikon FE2; Contax G2)

Asko Washer and Dryer -- small sized, front loading Swedish W/D. The washer uses 2 tablespoons of detergent per load (and you can stuff it to the nuts), 1/9 of the water of a regular washer and it spins at 1200 rpm!!! How cool is that?

The absurdly expensive German, Liebherr fridge takes up little space, looks excellent and uses little energy but wasn't worth the small fortune we spent on it IMHO. I love it, but if I could do it again I'd pick something else.

On Jan.16.2004 at 03:49 AM
pk’s comment is:

my phone. nokia 6590i. it's small (fits in the change pocket of a pair of jeans). it doesn't utilize all the ridiculous features most phones come with now (i don't need to use the web or take pictures, i just need a phone). works well using one hand. has good voice recognition (i have it set to recognize phrases like "i can have you erased!" to call certain friends, which gets some great looks in public). predictive spelling for text messaging that isn't too predictive (like apple's address book, which is just crazy with the helpfulness). and it's incredibly cute.

On Jan.16.2004 at 04:07 AM
Jeff G’s comment is:

My dyson dc07 allergy+ makes vacuuming a pleasure. Really. Every single thing about it is so well thought out. The best thing about it though is that it actually sucks up the dirt, something about 2/3 of the machines on the market don't seem to do. Worth every penny - especially since I bought it new on Ebay for about �100 below retail.

On Jan.16.2004 at 04:50 AM
Ginny ’s comment is:

Recently, I asked for a toaster for Christmas (I know, I know I'm so practical). Since my boyfriends step mom is a virtual gourmet, she purchased the Cadillac of toasters. The Cuisinart Metal Toaster with four slots and six browning levels. IT'S UNBELIEVABLE!!! Not only does it have a cool retro 50's feel, but it toasts like no other toaster I've ever owned! I know it cost more than I would EVER spend on a toaster, but it's worth it!

Isn't the Mach 3 the shaver that looks like something a woman (or man for that matter) might enjoy in other ways? (I'm trying not to be crass, I just think it's bad design)

On Jan.16.2004 at 08:38 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Even if something is designed well, it can't get by on looks alone. I'm looking for function (following form)!

In my book, functionality is a major part of good design. ;o)

I've changed my mind. I now want the Kloss Model 2:

On Jan.16.2004 at 09:10 AM
Christopher Johnston’s comment is:

My Francis! Francis! X1 Espresso Machine. High price but great coffee.

My Toastmaster toaster designed by F. A. Porsche. All the precision and none of the tune-ups.


On Jan.16.2004 at 09:13 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Like a few others here -- my wife and I will pay more for cookware. The good stuff can cost 10, 20 times more than the stuff you can buy at Target. But they are designed to last, perform better, and look their value.

All-Clad pots and pans -- we started buying a piece here and there for years, and slowly replaced all of our cheap, basic stuff. A sauce pan can cost $120, but it will last a lifetime of use. It's designed to perform.

Wustholf Grand Prix knives -- I wanted a set immediately after I held one for the very first time. Perfect ergonomics, incredible to use, and will last a lifetime.

We also have a bunch of ridiculously expensive kitchen tools and small appliances, including a Villaware 4-slot stainless steel, commercial toaster. It turns making toast into a joyous experience.

I'm also big about pens. I love Rotring for their designs.

On Jan.16.2004 at 09:15 AM
Christopher Johnston’s comment is:

Ohh Tan... Somehow you always bring up my vices. All Clad and Wusthof.

Erin and I have started our colletion of All-Clad and Le Creuset but we are thinking about registering for that new Jamie Oliver Professional collection by TeFal. I've never been a fan of their cookware but this stuff is NICE.

We are more Global knife people but my Little Sis and her husband have the Wusthof Classics and they love them. The Global just seems to have a less brittle feel to me then the Wusthofs.


On Jan.16.2004 at 09:28 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Christopher, I've wanted a Francis! Francis! for the longest time. Even when my wife could get us discounts on goods at Tully's coffee, we didn't splurge.

Is it really amazing or what? How's the crema?

On Jan.16.2004 at 09:52 AM
Mark’s comment is:

great topic!

I've been in love with my Harmon Kardon stereo with B&W speakers for years. Clean, simple design, no frills and sounds heavenly. Paid more for it with no regrets, I've had it for almost 10 years and wouldn't dream of ever replacing it. so pure.

and my dining room chairs. A local artisan hand-builds reproductions of windsor chairs from the 1800's. Their designs and craftsmanship are flawless. Originals are super expensive, hard to find and a matching set even harder. His chairs are solid and will become heirlooms.

My Cannondale road bike, bought it when I was 15 with money from my summer job. I had to convince my parents to let me buy that bike for months. Beautiful hand-built aluminum frame, amazing lines, perfect fit. I rode that bike halfway across north america and parts of europe. The first summer I averaged 800km a week. Then there's my Rocky Mountain, Kona and Specialized bikes - each purchased for their flawless design and hand built construction. Each bike was thousands of $ but I rode daily and loved each one. Then, a few years ago I decided to buy a new mountain bike but limited my budget to $1600 and "settled" for a well equiped bike with judy shox, disc brakes and some XTR parts but a lesser known make called Oryx. It didn't take long to realize why the bike cost less than similarly equipped bikes - everything was wrong about the ride, the fit and the feel. Never again. So not necessary a lesson on the best product but that comprimising on quality or design can really dissapoint.

On Jan.16.2004 at 10:09 AM
Christopher Johnston’s comment is:

Is it really amazing or what? How's the crema?

The only thing that I wasn't really impressed with (that I think they changed in the X5) is that you have to babysit the shots, otherwise they will overpull and you will end up with double-strength coffee instead of espresso. But if you do watch/time the shots... Wow, bomb espresso with a caramelly tasting crema! The steam wand is also exceptional for the size of the machine. I can bring about 32oz of milk to about 150 in a min or two. Power that you wouldn't normally expect from a smaller machine.


On Jan.16.2004 at 10:16 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Right back at ya, Christopher. I've wanted a Francis espresso for years, but we just have too many Starbucks around home and work, that we can't seem to justify the purchase. But the thing is just beautiful -- I'm partial to the orange one myself.

As to Oliver's T-Fal -- yea, I've seen it and it does look nice. Some of the new Calphalon stuff is gorgeous too. But for how long is unsure. All-Clad just wears so well. And I'm always a little skeptical of these Chef endorsed cookware lines. Emeril's got a line of Calphalons as well I think. Julia Childs still uses All-Clad.

And Wustholf is actually one of the "softer" steel knives. May require more repeated sharpening through the years, though. Global knives are nice too -- but what I would love next is the Kyocera ceramic knives. Ten times harder than steel, and half the weight. And just beau-ti-ful.

On Jan.16.2004 at 10:18 AM
David Cushman’s comment is:

I tried the Quattro -- it seems rough and scrapes your skin. I'm sticking with the Mach 3 -- nice and smooth. Thank you.

On Jan.16.2004 at 10:21 AM
jayna’s comment is:

I got one of those OXO can openers a long time ago. It was around $10 bucks, but well worth it. I'll never use a regular metal can opener ever again.

For Christmas I got my boyfriend a Henry Kloss radio. I had no idea why they were so special, but it's amazing how much sound can come from that tiny wooden box. Now I want one. :)

Recently I purchased an ottoman from Restoration Hardware. Sure, they're pricey, but if you were to look at any of the "discount" stores (Bed, Bath & Beyond, Linens 'n Things) -- the quality just isn't there. Even their real leather looks like pleather. If I'm gonna drop a sizable amount of money on something, it'd better look damn good.

I sound like such a snob, saying you get what you pay for. But you really do.

On Jan.16.2004 at 12:08 PM
k3lly ’s comment is:

Did anyone else see the Saturday Night Live sketch a few months back in which they were touting the "Mach 14" in a mock (ha ha) commercial?

"Fourteen blades help prevent the need to ever shave again! Cuts right down to the follicle!"

My roommate recently purchased a Schick Intuition razor, which has to be one of the worst concepts to hit the personal hygiene and self-grooming industry since the advent of "tan" nylon stockings. The razor itself is chunky and plastic (certainly not designed by Porsche), and the cartridges come armed with a solid cake of shaving cream built in around the blade. This, in theory, eliminates the need for applying shaving cream, gel, etc prior to shaving; i.e. it applies emollients and shaves all at once. The problem (aside from the whole idea and appearance of this razor) is that, with use, the cake of shaving cream below the blade runs out long before the razor is dull enough to require replacing it. And, all told, my roommate still needs to use shaving gel from the can, even when she's working with a brand-new cartridge.

So much for multi-tasking.

On Jan.16.2004 at 12:34 PM
k3lly ’s comment is:


I have a handspring, too....and as much as I love it for the address book, the calculator (!) and the calendar functions, I still use my desktop for email...and there's the phone...and I still have a "backup" paper calendar, etc.

I think my handspring-email hesitancy is partially because my roommate (of Schick Intuition fame, see above) uses a Blackberry for work, and having email deposited in multiple locations sometimes drives her batty--especially when she forgets to sync herself.

This opens another discussion, entirely, though: do these gadgets, inventions, and innovations that are supposed to help us organize and simplify really do just that? Or, conversely, do they make our lives more complicated by increasing the pace of the workplace (and our lives) and by raising the bar and expectations? (for example, consider the difference between communicating with a client by post vs. email).


On Jan.16.2004 at 12:47 PM
ps’s comment is:

Christopher, I've wanted a Francis! Francis! for the longest time. Even when my wife could get us discounts on goods at Tully's coffee, we didn't splurge.

Is it really amazing or what? How's the crema?

nice design, especially in orange or yello, but certainly not a high end coffeemaker... shows you how your design sense even fools your coffee taste..

On Jan.16.2004 at 01:19 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Not sure if this fits: Starbucks. I gladly fork over $1.76 every single day for a very functional cup of coffee.

On Jan.16.2004 at 01:22 PM
Christopher Johnston’s comment is:

Those Kyocera knives are decent! Can you sharpen them? I was attracted to the Henckels Twinstars when they came out but I heard that you can't sharpen them yourself or you could splinter the knife edge. The ceramics are appealing but I'm still in that sceptic phase. hehe

All-Clad is certiantly the best in my book right now (I would love to have the copper series) but I am just interested to see if this Jamie Oliver set is worth its price. I have to admit, Jamie's cool factor is rubbing off on the pans a little, but time will tell whether they are good or not. Emril is a different beast, he has always been a chump and that "bam" stuff makes me want to puke. haha! So no Emril pans for Christmas this year, okay guys?


On Jan.16.2004 at 01:23 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Oh, I can't stand Emeril either. His show is just trash. Though I used to go to New Orleans when I was younger, and ate a few times at Brennan's where he had his start. The guy's food is magnificent I have to say.

Back to the knives. You can't sharpen the Kyocera -- there's not a surface that's harder than the ceramic to use as a sharpening base. Supposedly the edge is guaranteed to keep its sharpness indefinitely. Should it somehow inexplicably go dull, just return it and Kyocera will just send you a new one. How's that for cool?

The only drawback is that ceramic is usually more brittle than metal -- so I bet there's a chance it will chip if you strike hard on a marble surface or something.

I heard that Henkels has discontinued the Twinstar series cause too many people complained after the knives went dull. I'm not a big fan of Henkels -- they started selling a bunch of cheaper versions at Target and Walmart -- with serrated edges and plastic handles. Which tells me that they're not ultimately concerned about upholding the quality of their steel.

I'm telling ya -- Wustholf is the real deal. All the pros use them. Bam!

sorry folks ....enough w/ the kitchen geek speak.

On Jan.16.2004 at 01:59 PM
griff’s comment is:

My wife is lacking that critical eye for design. When gift shopping, she always finds the right object, but never the desired one.

To the point where I don't tell her the things I want because I would rather have no mp3 player at all than have the Rio player when I wanted the iPod.

Shhhhhh, don't tell her, you'll break her heart and I will end up with a Huffy ten speed rather than a Pinarello Montello.

On Jan.16.2004 at 02:10 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

To the point where I don't tell her the things I want because I would rather have no mp3 player at all than have the Rio player when I wanted the iPod.

Oh man...who else has this problem? My wife and I are fairly in-sync these days (she did, in fact, get me an iPod) but I vividly remember taking back about 80% of our wedding gifts...including rather expensive furniture.

The problem with having some design sensibilities is that a lot of people don't. You have to graciously accept gifts that, while coming with good intentions, are an offense to the senses. ;o)

On Jan.16.2004 at 03:48 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Smart vs. Desire vs. New vs. Cheap

We're at war. Buyers lose sometimes, and yes, they feel remorse. More often, goods, services, and products are never complete and they never will complete us. They won't fulfill our needs, because right around the corner, something new is looming. It's better! It's improved! It even cheaper! And it will have something better, improved, and cheaper following it in another two months.

Let's consider something known as cognitive dissonance:

a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt between what you�already know or believe, and new information or interpretation.

We could redefine this term based on this thread:

a phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt when you already own a product or good, and new/different products or goods have not been acquired as of yet.

In the end, we can never really win the battle with goods and products, because the battle is within ourselves.

On Jan.16.2004 at 06:36 PM
surts’s comment is:

from drab to fab

On Jan.17.2004 at 02:52 PM
Tan’s comment is:

The head of Audi once said that it was just as expensive to build a beautiful car as it does to build an ugly one. So they choose to build beautiful ones.

That applies to so many things consummerable. Good product design costs as much as shitty product design in most cases. It's all about the commitment to do one instead of the other, and having faith that the buying public will notice.

On Jan.17.2004 at 03:36 PM
noodlem’s comment is:

Apple should just stop monopolising the Apple market.

On Jan.18.2004 at 04:03 AM
krs’s comment is:

Hmm. Gadgets. I hate those phones that can take pictures and surf the web. I really can't see the point of having a function that is half-arsed. I can see the point of an ipod, though. I will buy in when one gadget can do many things properly, like phone people and take good quality pictures and store loads of data. I also like my B&W speakers.

On Jan.18.2004 at 08:47 PM
sean’s comment is:

Yamaha FG423S: $545.00

Martin & Co. D-45: $7979.00

So I bought the Yamaha and lucked out! I have never received so many compliments on how great my guitar sounds.

Although I was fortunate to have picked a great sounding Yamaha, one of these days I will splurge and buy a Martin.

On Jan.20.2004 at 01:46 PM
ak’s comment is:

so pretty. one day ill have space for one...

more good stuff at: http://www.carlhansen.com/

On Jan.21.2004 at 04:23 PM
ha’s comment is:


On Jan.22.2004 at 02:04 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

First of all, I want to mention that nobody noted the role of Design in creating buyers' remorse.

Macs suck, but designers help people to believe that they are superior and pay a lot more for them. The ipod, for example, would be the coolest thing ever if it wasn't a total piece of crap. See here... My fiancee's ipod from christmas didn't even last through the month of January. To me, Apple seems to be a company driven by image, not quality-- perfect for designers, who are usually insincere and superficial as all hell. The Mach 3 works great, sure, but Gillette is a company with a notorious history of unnecessary and cruel animal testing. Most people don't feel remorse when they find that out, but that's because the shave is so damn smooth; it makes you feel so damn professional. Makes you want to go out and present yourself as something you're not.

Buyers' remorse is created by shortsighted designers. I am remorseful after buying into this whole game, designed by the ultimate shortsighted designer.

On Feb.03.2004 at 05:54 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

here is the link that I mistyped above

On Feb.03.2004 at 05:56 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Buyers' remorse is created by shortsighted designers. I am remorseful after buying into this whole game, designed by the ultimate shortsighted designer.

You know Tom -- some days I don't understand why you participate on a design blog.

I'm not a blind consumer by any means, but I don't understand designers who don't see value in good product design -- even if it is more superficial than justified.

It's like when I hear about designers who crap on the banality of television and brag about not polluting their homes with TV sets.

My question to you and them is this -- if you see design as a sham, and hate mass-produced, mass-consumed culture, and "designed" consummables as crap -- then why the fuck did you choose a commercial, marketing career like graphic design? Why work in a profession you find lacking in ethics and relevance?

And just for the record. It's $99 for Apple to repair the iPod battery for you, $49 to do it on your own. If it's still under warranty, Apple will do it for free.

I hear they're having a sale on DELLs at Best Buy. Better hurry.

On Feb.03.2004 at 06:36 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

OK maybe I was a bit doomy and gloomy. I do see value in good product design; I just think that a lot of times people don't know what it means for a product to be well-designed. I don't think design HAS to be a sham.

Why do you have to grab the lower right hand corner to resize windows on a mac? what a hassle.

On Feb.03.2004 at 09:54 PM