The Dodge Challenger is a throwback design done right; the Chrysler PT Cruiser is a parody.

For drapey, iconic comfort, there's the DVF wrap dress; for drapey, iconic disaster, you can't touch this pair of MC Hammer pants.

The Eames Lounge Chair and the Barcalounger are icons of comfort: one immortal, one hideous.

Carbon fiber is key to both the Flex-Foot Cheetah, a prosthetic that allows paraplegics to run, and the absurd Oakley C Six sunglasses, which cost $1,500.

NASA's old logo summoned astral ambitions; its new "meatball" logo summons tangled bureaucracy.

The Golden Gate Bridge will stand forever. Its neighbor, the Bay Bridge, collapsed.

Harley-Davidson's 1957 Sportster influenced every Chopper after it; its Buell line was an eye-melting sideshow.

Herman Miller's proto cubicles fomented creativity--and then a sea of cubicles fomented white-collar malaise.

The Hoberman Sphere wows you instantly, while the world-famous Slinky rarely works as advertised.

The iPod's gestural genius made music libraries easy; Segway's gestural genius made easy commutes embarrassing.

Not since Warhol has anyone walked the high-low line with the grace and god-awfulness of Gaga.

Leatherman put all your tools in one neat package; the Rambo knife couldn't keep its few pieces intact.

Levi's rugged jeans are still a staple--which is no excuse for parents buying denim-printed diapers.

The computer mouse made office work intuitive; endless office work made us fat, which led to the dreaded treadmill desk.

The iPad begat Flipboard's genius interface . . . and the flip-down desk chest.

Nike's Air Max 90 made high tech fashionable. Skechers Shape-Ups use "high tech" to tout a weight-loss fantasy.

The Gem paper clip was a miracle of industrial efficiency. Microsoft's Clippy made every day less efficient for Windows users.

Even Scrabble geniuses can't unscramble the letters in today's CAPTCHAs.

The Seattle Public Library: hyperfunctional logic. Seattle's Experience Music Project: barely functional expressiveness.

The IBM Selectric hid high tech in a sleek case; the modern printer cartridge hides high user costs.

Burt Rutan developed SpaceShipOne for a few million dollars; the multibillion-dollar Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey exemplifies military bloat.

The bendable drinking straw once represented plastic-age ingenuity; now it enables the bottomless Big Gulp.

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For Every iPod, There Is A Pair Of Hammer Pants

American design isn't perfect. Some of the country's most classic designs share a sensibility with its most grievous offenses.

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  • yooriw819


    (Not since Warhol has anyone walked the high-low line with the grace and god-awfulness of Gaga.) It is bad because you can’t see any major differences. It is mostly just the same person, reflected.


    (The Golden Gate Bridge will stand forever. Its neighbor, the Bay Bridge, collapsed.) It is good because it compares the pictures with a destroyed bridge, and a perfect bridge.