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Watch Our 60 Second Introduction.

The Unintended (and Sometimes Hilarious) Consequences of Design

1 minute read | By: Amanda Morgan

Has it happened to you? The shock or surprise of an unexpected result from your design?

As designers, we sweat the small stuff. We make every effort to consider every use-case, every outcome, every possibility. Still, we are human and prone to mistakes. And, even Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI), like “Molly” by The Grid cannot escape the phenomenon of unintended consequences.

We must consider how our designs might negatively impact not only our immediate audience, but also related audiences and even society as a whole. There are many organizations working to address ways in which designers can improve their processes and gain a broader perspective on how their work impacts others, such as What Design Can Do.

While it is critical to question our designs and consider the many variables related to them, it is possible to turn lemons into lemonade. Tackle unintended outcomes as a part of your team’s Design Debt clean-up strategy. Consider that mistakes and negative consequences can often result in lessons learned and actually lead to progress and improvements in designs.

Further, some unintended consequences of design can even generate a good laugh. A few years ago, I came across an example of signage that was likely intended to be an instructive guide for safety, but instead encouraged a bit of comedy and, at the same time, posed a potential safety risk.

If you are a Monty Python fan, you can easily see the humor in this situation. And, now that the unintended consequence is apparent, it can be corrected (although that may disappoint some people).

Unexpected results are unavoidable, but we can learn from them and work to make the best of even disastrous situations.