Fast Company

Design: Vacationing with Design Eyes

Once you start to see the world through design eyes, it’s hard to stop judging your surroundings by a more demanding standard – even when you’re on vacation.

Last week, I spent a few days in Bermuda, then journeyed on to Miami for the rest of the week. I really tried to untether myself electronically, vigilantly ignoring my email, purposely not checking my office voice mail, rarely even turning into CNN. But I couldn’t help noticing the design decisions that alternately delighted and disappointed me in my travels. And, being a reporter, I couldn’t resist making a few notes on the back of a boarding pass on the way home.

Herewith, my top 10 list of design hits and misses from the road:

Top 5 Design Delights

1.The stepped slate roofs of Bermuda. These white-painted marvels have evolved over the course of four centuries to resist gale force winds and collect water. RSZroofs.jpg
Since the island has no fresh water, a Bermuda roof is required, by law, to capture 80% of the rain that falls on it. Talk about form following function! But they’re as cool as they are handy – in short, delicious design.

2. Mosaic highway overpasses in Miami. Sun, sand, turquoise water – all captured in the most mundane embodiment of municipal infrastructure. Somebody in Miami’s highway planning department has the big picture view of his/her city.

3. The Wacky Architecture of Miami. OK, so I didn’t love it all, but I was certainly amused by most of it. Miami’s the kind of over-the-top city that’s willing to greenlight all manner of architectural extravaganzas, often in yummy colors.
RSZMiami.jpg Between the sun, the heat, and the crazy buildings, it’s hard to have a serious thought in your head. Which, I guess, makes it a near-perfect vacation destination.

4. Pink buses in Bermuda. Funny how the right color can make something as banal as a bus feel festive. Somehow you don’t get the same rush riding a Greyhound to Pittsburgh.

5. Thoughtful airport touches in Fort Lauderdale: a special set of seats, right after security, where you can reattach your shoes to your feet; a cellphone waiting area outside, where cars can idle until their arriving traveler emerges from baggage claim; the Samsung mobile recharging stations at the gates, where laptop toters can gather to while away the long hours between delayed flights checking their email or uploading videos to YouTube.

My pet peeves? Read on....

Top 5 Design Aggravations

1.A solid balcony wall. Imagine this: you pay a little extra to get one of those coveted ‘water views’ at the hotel. Then you sit down with your coffee cup in the morning to enjoy it -- only to discover that some idiot specified solid walls on the balconies, effectively blocking sightlines to the scenery for which you’ve paid a premium. Aaaarrrrgggghhh!

2. A half wall in a hotel shower. Another bonehead design: a permanent wall half way across the edge of the tub to prevent water from the shower from getting on the floor. Only problem? Bending in to turn on the shower, you can’t avoid getting a blast of water on your head. Genius.

3. Tray tables too small for a laptop. As if flying weren’t annoying enough these days, discovering that even a small laptop is too large for a tray table is inexcusable. A rap on the knuckles to Emirates Air for this one!

4. Dysfunctional water pitchers. At one poolside place, they were so badly designed that waiters were forced to pour water out of them sideways. Ridiculous.

5. Under-seat storage on airplanes. OK: so you’re supposed to stash your gear under the seat in front of you. Fine, except that space too often is blocked by some weird under-seat gizmo, effectively preventing the stashing of anything bigger than a water bottle -- except that it was already surrendered at security.

What have you found that prompted either delight – or despair – on vacation?

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1 Comments

  • Susan

    Great insights, but anyone who has waited tables will tell you, pouring water from the side of the pitcher is common. It's faster and gives the customer more ice.