August 25, 2005

Frog Hataz at Frog Design, or Hipster No Love The Bugaboo

A designer from a major, major firm explains how with "dissonant design" like the Bugaboo or the iPod, the combination of design/function/brand is so powerful, people identify with the products and use them as forms of self-expression, even though they cost way more than the competition.

iPod users are rewarded for breaking the rules, thinking outside the box, acknowledging the exclusive, stand-out design while it's exclusive, but actually appreciating the seamless functionality, not the trendiness, now that they're everywhere.

Bugaboo users, meanwhile, are trying to show they have more money than you, even though they're ashamed to admit they spent it in an irrational fit of trendchasing. But they'll still try and get you to buy one, just so they can underscore their trendspotting acumen. Oh, and they're desperate to show they're not losers now, just because they have a kid.

I'll bet you a bag'o'donuts the guy who wrote this:
- has no kids himself, but knows all about them because his whole damn neighborhood in Brooklyn is being overrun by kids now, and besides, his friggin' officemate won't shut up about how awesome their new Bugaboo is.
- figured all this out, not by doing any research, or talking to any actual users, or even talking to anyone outside his office or apartment, but on the L train, staring at one more friggin' Bugaboo-pushing couple who got off before he did--oh, and while he was rocking his iPod.
- drank Pabst Blue Ribbon way before it was "cool," but then stopped because the company totally blew it, and now it's so over. [OK, I cheated; he actually mentions this one in the article.]

Dissonant Design: Fulfilling the Need for Self Expression [frogdesign.com, no relation]

11 Comments

I don't own a frog, but I will come to the defense of its owners.

Regardless of its trendiness there is absolutely no doubt about its amazing utility. It was designed for use in an urban environment, and it excels beyond imagination. Well, expect for the two-piece fold (ie the only reason we didn't buy one). Some people will indeed buy it as a status symbol, but I'm still amazed at how well-made and functional it is. Based on his own explanation for the iPod success, I would say the same thing does applies to the Frog. His be-littling of its functionality over other strollers has me thinking that he doesn't use strollers very often. [or ever. his idea for Bugaboo's next product is a grocery cart, and I'm like, dude, if you tilt that Frog flat, it becomes a wheelbarrow. And besides, theres' freshdirect. -ed.]

I think a better example of stroller "dissonant design" is a jogging stroller owned by parents who don't go jogging. Even the Mountain Buggy in the city is... uh, I won't go there :)

- Kirk.

That wanker needs to have a few Blue Ribbons and get laid, what a bore.

We have a Cameleon. And, I really don't give a rat's ass if it bothers someone else or gives them fodder to judge us. I'm actually glad it bothers that idiot when we push it down the street.

The Bugaboo just a stroller for God's sake, not some extremist political dogma that I'm trying to shove in someone's face. Nor, is it a means by which we express our efforts to fight off "loserhood" now that we are parents.

I wish I could get paid to write such dribble as this moron. Sure, we live in a consumer driven "disposable" society, which is driven by silly trends. That's news to those high-brow, early adapter readers of Frogdesign? Ha.

Besides, what's so wrong with a little colorful "form and function" design? We live in a country that seems to live for inane and boxy SUV's, botoxed faces, taupe and beige clothing, and cheap plastic baby stuff with barf-o-rama textile patterns. Yuck.

I wonder if Martha was having here design guys work up a $150 Bugaboo knock-off for Target while she was in the slammer?

[Kmart, and yeah, he disses her, too. Bugaboo is now a case study among product designers and marketers for rethinking a product/category, and I'm sure it's what the designers want/get when they have a kid. And while all those dynamics he mentioned could exist, they could exist equally for iPod/Apple snobs, too; the guy just extrapolated from a single datapoint--himself. If he showed even a hint of knowing what he was doing, it'd be fine, but... -ed.]

There is certainly a Bugaboo-backlash happening here in Europe, partly because of the ubiquity of the things but mostly because the design forces compromises. For example the baby is held very low (especially for two parents over 1.80m) and there is little storage space for carrying the groceries.

Probably the most common type of pram (as we call them) in Copenhagen, for example, is the traditional coach-built type, often passed down as a family heirloom. Why? Because if you don't bother with a car the design is perfect. Even the public transport is designed around getting these things on and off.

The Bugaboo might be ideal for the American lifestyle, being a European I just don't know. Here it is seen by many as overdesigned.

The author does get a few points wrong (well quite a few). There is certainly a trend against people seeing their possessions as defining their identity, with identity being defined more by their experiences. One could argue that Apple understands this - the iPod promotions have always been about the experience of using an iPod, not the functionality. This trend, however, is unlikely to be illustrated by a product design company.

[interesting points. but there is the whole white headphone thing, where you--and now, it turns out, muggers--can spot other iPod users in public. I'd love to see pics of Danish heirloom prams, tho...-ed.]

"I think a better example of stroller "dissonant design" is a jogging stroller owned by parents who don't go jogging. Even the Mountain Buggy in the city is... uh, I won't go there :)"

Ouch...

Actually, I'm willing to defend my big ass stroller to all comers... with one word: snow.

I'm sure the bugaboo is amazing (I test drove one in a store in SF, it was quite lovely) but it's wheels seemed little to me. We walk everywhere and Montreal's snow removal tactic is "plow the crap into huge ass banks until the huge, frightening snowblower comes to take it away".. I'm guessing a bugaboo would get swallowed by one of these snow banks. Not so much our Cavalier.

Personally, I think he's just pissed off because Apple hired Jonathan Ive so that they wouldn't have to farm out design contracts to firms like frogdesign.

And, I agree with David, above. If the sight of me pushing around my daughter in a $1200 stroller pisses him off even more, so much the better.

When, exactly, did product designers become philosophers? [at 11AM, after a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon -ed.]

Michael,

product designers have been philosophers since the trade was invented. You wouldn't believe the crap we come up with to justify our existence and our wacky ideas. Plenty of prove in products that made it to market/ furniture shows. It also seems the author completely neglected the history of Bugaboo and how it became popular. Seems to me it wasn't so much the design (sure it's great) but more soo the brilliant marketing ploy of giving samples to high profile celebrities that helped make the bugaboo an ubiquitous product on our streets. I'm sure Greg will support me in that theory.

[It was probably what the guy's approach seemed to reveal between the lines about product design expertise--i.e., that it doesn't have a methodology, doesn't look at actual users and actual peoples' experiences/opinions in a rigorous way, but relies on the ruminations of a self-annointed guru whose pronouncements we're just supposed to accept as gospel truth--that bugged me the most about this piece. That may be a cynical interpretation, but I don't see anything in the paper that refutes it.

As for Bugaboo, the celebrity spotting thing is certainly a factor in building awareness, but my understanding is that Bugaboo has done very little (if any) of that on their own, and that it's been largely organic--the sex and the city appearance was initiated by the show's production designer, for example. It's not like all the baby clothes shops whose publicists send a box of crap to Gwyneth Paltrow & Chris Martin's publicists, and then send out a press release saying "Oh look, Apple wears our crash helmets." -ed.]

Sorry, but the bugaboo is the design geek's equivalent of an in-your-face H2. all attitude and no function.

If you want to be honest and say: "I got the bugaboo because it's a nice stiff middle finger to traditional baby stuff", then more power to you and have fun spending that $700. But please dont try to justify your purchase by point out how functional it is. Sure its functional. So is a $12 umbrella stroller. So is a more traditional $150 stroller form the likes of Graco. So, what is the extra $450 for, if not for attitude?

As a dad on a budget, I'm thinking that extra $450 will buy a lot of kids' shoes, and maybe even a PS2 game for daddy. Attitude can go fly a kite.

As a product designer, I'm impressed when something like the bugaboo breaks a stuffy category wide open. But hopefully we can be honest about what their appeal is, and not pretend that its all about some altrustic need they're meeting.

[I don't think it's ALL/NO anything, though. Frankly, I don't think the H2 can justify its existence. But when the revolution comes, at least a few Bugaboo-buying parents should make it through with their heads intact. No one says it's a VALUE buy, but function/performance-wise, it is MILES AND MILES ahead of the disposable umbrellas and Gracos. But you're right, that still doesn't make it "worth" it for many people. -ed.]

Sorry but H2's are for vertically challenged "Joeys" with little johnsons who were denied on prom night and never got over it.

Enjoy your x-box...

[lolol. And Bugaboos are for tall nerds who managed to have sex at least once? -ed.]

This is such hot air.

His comments about the hip-hop/ Cadillac connection make no sense. How is a Cadillac SUV old and stodgy? Wasn't Cadillac being ironic in the first place by making an SUV? The hip-hop attraction is for the ostentacious display of wealth, not to "poke fun at the brand's old expectations." The brand's old expectations of wealth and power is EXACTLY what they're hooking into.

I thought hipsters drank Pabst because it was cheap. Little did I know it was for dissonance.

Oh, how I have to laugh at the daddytribes posted here. So many daddies whose masculinity seems to be defined by their Bugaboos. Just listen

David: Get over your yuppie hipster self. You spent 500 extra on a stroller because it's what your wife wanted. And, she wanted it because all her yuppie hipster friends wanted it. Go back to your marketing job and position some paradigms.

Michael Amper: ditto. Hope your float goes well, enjoy Monte Serreno. Tossers like you are why I left.

thisislarry: Damn straight. Bugaboo is H2 for yuppie spawn, pure and simple.

Jay: the only people who drink Pabst because it's cheap are DRUNKS. I ought to know, I've been one.

I bought a Bugaboo (because I'm a tool) bec. I wanted a neat stroller I could then pass onto my kids and the would be, like, "Cool, how retro." What I got was a PIECE OF CRAP and, worse, the Bugaboo company doesn't really care. I posted twice about their apalling customer service:

http://pinkmohair.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/04/bugaboo_fs.html

http://pinkmohair.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/04/well_the_ceo_of.html

So pretentious buyers beware! But an Ipod and feed your tykes Pabst Blue Ribbon but do it while you're pushing a Peregro or Graco..

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