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.

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

    Bad:

    (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.

    Good:

    (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.