40 Epic Design Fails That Made Bad Design History
Design is no laughing matter. Or is it? Here are some seriously funny design fails to brighten your day and convince you how vital good design can be!
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A good picture is worth a thousand words, but some of these hilarious design fails are so hard to believe they might leave you speechless!
Are you a small business owner thinking about DIY design? Then these design examples are definitely something you need to see. There’s a reason people spend years studying things like interior or graphic design: there’s really a lot more to it than meets the eye.
It might be the poor placement of text, lack of consideration for the end-user, or simply a severe lack of aesthetic quality. In any case, bad design can prevent you from sending the right message and even seriously harm your business.
Of course, you can find plenty of amusing examples down the rabbit hole that is the Reddit crappy design thread. But around here, we also like to be educational as well as entertaining. So here are some hilarious examples, split into categories that correspond to some of the most common reasons why design systems fail.
Let’s dive in!
Typography design fails
Do you know the difference between fonts and typefaces? Have you ever heard of kerning? These are just some of the things a quality graphic designer might consider when adding text to your designs.
Perhaps most graphic design fails happen because of text. Whether it’s the placement, poor choice of typography, or simply a lack of aesthetic considerations, a text can make or break a piece of design.
Here are just a few funny examples of designs failing to deliver the right message.
1. This scary wedding menu
I appreciate some folks don’t like kids but the food options for this wedding are a bit too drastic, don’t you think?
2. Boy syrup
At first, you may think the name of the product itself isn’t great, however, what helped this example make bad design history is bad punctuation. The poorly placed exclamation mark turns what should have been an expression of delight into “boy syrup”, something you probably wouldn’t want on your pancakes.
3. This crappy design
Sorry kids, but no one’s betting on this little league team.
4. Christmas lights designed by the Grinch
For those who are fed up with traditional holiday cheer but still want to embrace the festivity in their own way. This famous design fail shows the importance of correctly choosing the right font and spacing letters.
5. The city of… light?
This design fail is a little hard to believe, but I hope their trip to Aaris was nothing short of magical.
6. Fashion fart
To be frank, fashion fart would be a good term for when you just throw on whatever you can find. Although, laundry day couture might sound a bit more sophisticated.
7. Happy birthday Boby!
Modern families have their own ways of doing things and come in all shapes and sizes. But when it comes to love, morriage and boby, they must always come in that order.
8. No thanks to this cruise
Personally, I too would appreciate a cigarette before pending doom.
9. The word click is problematic
This is just one of the many failed designs that involve the word click. You might get away with it on a small label, but as a massive sign outside your shop, it makes for a pretty poor design choice.
10. Bros before…
It’s hard to tell what’s funnier about this sign: the completely unnecessary choice of making the letter S different or the additional text that makes that first line all the more striking.
Design fails that are not user friendly
The goal of good design isn’t simply to be aesthetically pleasing—it’s also to serve a specific purpose. We can all have a good laugh at funny design fails, but coping with poor design in real life can be extremely frustrating.
A good designer needs to consider the complete user experience of a particular piece of design, whether we’re talking about interior design, packaging, or website design. The following examples will demonstrate just how vital it is to consider the way a product is used and how much design can impact that.
11. Kids live in tight-knit communities
Put down your sandwich for a second and cheer on your pal doing a number two right next to you. Don’t worry, it’s sectioned off so they have some privacy.
12. Hand dryers for mother and child
Try it out with a friend who’s shorter or taller than you! Jokes aside, with this one, you may be able to see the good intention (designing for children or shorter people). Still, the execution simply doesn’t make sense.
13. Mirror ceilings you really don’t need
I don’t think mirror ceilings are ever a good idea, but this one is next level. It’s one of the funniest fails for sure, but imagine the horror of walking into that bathroom stall and seeing people on the other end.
14. Mixed messages
If you’re looking to plan your meals and calorie intake, don’t bother. Also, this brings back memories of my mom making me share everything with my sisters. No thanks, mom.
15. A secret ingredient?
Ever wondered what is fail-safe design? It’s a concept that means designers predict the failure of products, but make sure this happens safely (e.g., a light bulb burning out). Although this is more applicable to industrial design, the methodology can also apply to graphic design.
In the following example, the designer wanted to keep the brand design consistent, which is undoubtedly very important. However, imagine your grandma having both of these cans in her pantry. You can see how failing to tell these apart due to the packaging can have severe and dangerous repercussions.
16. Get me out of here!
Seriously, you had one job. I’m not even sure how a simple display can end up looking this complicated, but I sure wouldn’t like to get stuck in this nightmare of an elevator.
17. You can’t be everything at once
Would you rather hold a used toilet brush or a plunger? Yeah, me neither. The road to hell indeed is paved with good intentions, and this unfortunate bathroom utensil proves it.
18. Impossible wheelchair escape route
It’s not funny how often people have made poor design choices when providing access to wheelchair users. This design envisioned getting people out of the building in case of an emergency, but not exactly how the eventual escape would end.
19. Hiring Mr. Bean as your UX designer
This is definitely one of the worst design fails in UX design. We’ve all been guilty of complicating things unnecessarily. Still, it’s hard to believe that anyone could think this was the best way to add phone numbers.
20. If at first, you don’t succeed
The rails were presumably installed to prevent people from hitting their heads on the stairs. However, it's much likelier for someone to trip over these now. So, the cones are meant as a quick fix. Design mistakes can be pretty costly, so make sure you consider all angles before getting to the implementation stage.
21. You’ve been counting all wrong
Here’s a simple yet effective one. One of the cardinal rules of good UX design is to use familiar design elements and layouts. A “page up” button in place of a 9 is bound to make any user frustrated.
22. The notice you don’t want to miss
Remember when we answered the question: what is fail-safe design? Here’s an example of what it’s NOT. Imagine dealing with an elevator failing every time someone misses this sign!
23. Double-check everything
This bad graphic design example went viral last year. A user discovered that Coca-Cola’s bottle customization platform prevented people from using certain words (including LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter) but failed to recognize a big red flag like this.
Funny design fails
Sometimes a design fulfills the intended purpose and delivers the right message (in writing at least). However, context is everything, so even the most well-meaning of ideas can turn into epic design fails.
24. The “I didn’t know I was pregnant” test
Honey, I thought it was just the holiday weight, but it turns out I have some great news! This advert is so bad that it’s kind of cute. But again, if you were hoping to become a parent, you’d probably find it horribly unprofessional and turn to a different product.
25. Gay lions
This Noah’s ark illustration is one of the most famous bad graphic design examples. Although I like the idea of these two out and proud living their best life on Noah’s ark, it really shows you need to choose your graphic designer carefully.
26. The greasy shopping bad
I personally prefer the thrift store. But nothing says brand shopping like an environmentally conscious shopping bag that looks like it was used for greasy takeout too.
27. A man designed this pool float
When social media is trending with photos of people on cute floats shaped like flamingos, unicorns or swans, dare to be different with this giant sanitary pad! I’m all about normalizing menstruation, but this example makes me cringe.
28. What a cute jeopard
Proofreading shouldn’t be a graphic designer’s job, but surely this could be avoided with just a bit of common sense. Or, you know, the basic alphabet.
29. No diabetes bummer
Recognizable design symbols are part of good UX, but context is just as important. Although a frowning emoji would usually be a good match for the “no” option, in this case, it will make you feel like a sociopath.
30. Silence of the Lambs face mask
Just me here doing hot girl stuff. This funny example is another reminder that there can always be some horrific product design behind decent packaging.
Good design, wrong context
Even the best piece of design (user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, on-brand, etc.) will fail if you don’t consider how or where it will exist. Here are some examples that will really make you wonder if the designer had any idea how or where their work will be used.
31. Poorly placed advert
You can plan everything and come up with great design and copy, but the harsh reality is that even then you might end up with an epic design fail. That’s why you need a graphic designer who will take into consideration how your designs will be used across the board.
32. That’s not how you use a selfie stick
A word of advice: anyone designing your marketing materials should understand your service or product and how it works. The reason why design systems fail is often the absence of collaboration from different stakeholders: in this case, marketers, product developers, and designers.
33. In it goes, I guess?
This triggers some severe PTSD, watching my parents try to insert a USB stick the wrong way - 8 times consecutively.
34. Honker handles
This one is so bad it almost seems intentional. Perhaps whoever was in charge of placing the photo on the vehicle simply decided to make a joke. Still, designers should be reminded of how even the slightest detail can disrupt the final result completely.
35. This conversation piece at McDonald’s
Even industry leaders aren’t immune to design fails. Seeing as kids are perhaps the primary target demographic of McDonald’s, this kind of oversight is pretty huge.
36. The Minion from hell
Oh, look, a cute minion shampoo that’s strawberry-scented! Except that after you use it, a red liquid starts to ooze out of the character’s eyes, and your cute Minion becomes a maniac on a killing spree.
37. Disney in distress
We’ve all seen bad Disney ripoffs, but although the design itself is pretty decent, the end result suffered due to some unfortunate cutting. Bibbidy, bobbidy, botched!
38. My spider-sense tells me this is wrong
Surely there were many ways to make a very cool Kleenex box for Spiderman fans. Oh well, instead, we’ve got a pretty entertaining graphic design fail.
39. A transformative massage experience
Breathe. Relax. You are about to enter a state of the perfect fish roll.
40. False advertising
I’d like to speak to the manager.
We hope this list of bad design examples gave you a few good laughs and shed some light on just how important design can be!
Whether it’s marketing or product design, you need to consider what you want the message of your design to be, how it will be perceived and used, and by whom.
Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.