The Ugliest Designs of the Past Decade


Jean Cocteau, author of Beauty and the Beast, among other things, and friend to Chanel, Picasso, Édith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich, said that “art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.” What about design? Thinking about what makes something ugly inevitably raises the question, what makes something beautiful?

The Oops Awards was founded in 2009 by three design professionals wanting to call out the ugliest, silliest, and most useless products on the design circuit. Tired of the cult of bad design dominating the fairs and magazines, they felt that honest, independent criticism would propel the industry away from ugly. Continuing to carry the torch, we’ve rounded up the very best of the bad and the ugly. Click through to check out what we think are the ugliest designs of the last decade, and then let us know in the comments if you agree. PS: If you want some judging criteria for the subjective topic, Metropolis published an entire issue devoted to answering the enigmatic question, “What is Good Design?”

Cipria Sofa and Side Chair by Fernando and Humberto Campana for Edra

Image credit: archiexpo

As one design blogger wrote, “it looks like something I might find in the back of my refrigerator.” Designers take note, if the question is hot or not, sickish eco fur will always be a definitive NOT.

Duct Tape Lounge Chair by Jason Miller

Image credit: Jason Miller Studio

A self-proclaimed homage to imperfection, Miller based the design on “that sad lounger from college days, when furniture was found, bought, and repaired for little.” We’ve all been there, but is it really a time worth revisiting?

XXL Chair by Janneke Hooymans & Frank Tjepkema

Image credit: Tjep

Wow, where to begin? An abstraction of a sprawling, obese mammal with a tattoo on one “leg” reminiscent of a nightmare inducing scene in one of the greatest cerebral horror movies of all time? No thanks!

Chair ONE by Charlotte Kingsnorth

Image credit: dezeen; Chair Blog

What’s up with the fat furniture? Sure obesity is a pressing global issue that’s representative of our consumerist economic woes, and yes, squishy is comfy, but the association of sitting on grandma’s muumuu clad (even worse — naked) lap is something we just can’t get past. The designer’s description does absolutely nothing to help her case: “the bulging, pink velvet upholstery engulfs its timber frame and is wrapped in latex sheeting.” Audible shudder.

XS Chair by Nick Demarco

Image credit: DEMARCONIA

Props to Nick for his creative use of trash, but seriously, who wants a giant, plastic-wrapped blob full of trash in their home or office? Not to mention, a daily reminder of the fact that our world is careening towards a Wall-E-esque fate. Sad face.

Flock Lamp by Julia Lohmann

Image credit: ArtStyleOnline

Who would voluntarily install an illuminated growth on their ceiling? Think about it Julia…

Ondule Chair by Mattis Esnault

Image credit: ARCHIscene; ARCH20

A chair slip-covered with undulating waves of foam similar to brain casserole? I think the word is terrifying.

Octopus Chair by Maximo Riera

Image credit: Maximo Riera

Well, a big, black, dangerous-looking, hard octopus chair sure ain’t pretty.

The Wooly Chair by Jason Miller

Image credit: this is product placement

We’re pretty sure this is what the monster under the bed looks like. Why would anyone want to resurrect the terror of things that go bump in the night with a flea ridden, ratty brown accent chair? It’s so not worth it.

Oswine Lamp by Johanness Hemann

Image credit: Johanness Hemann via dezeen

This mysterious green-ish dust bunny gone bad material perfectly illustrates the importance of color. Hemann made this same lamp in a beautiful, cobalt blue and even though the amorphous, swamp thing shape is the same, the brilliant hue transforms the design from weird to wonderful. The red and lime green versions are pretty awesome, too.

Ikea’s LAMPAN lamp infected with a digital “elephantiasis” virus by Daan van den Berg

Image credit: Boing Boing

Two words you never want associated with your work: infected, and elephantiasis.

Sealpelt by Vík Prjónsdóttir

Image credit: Icelandic Design

This Icelandic version of the snuggie is funny and ugly. Fungly?

Prickly Pair Chair by Valentina Gonzalez Wohlers

Image credit: Valentina Gallery

The chair’s press release reads “they are frivolous and humorous yet simultaneously encourage reflection and acceptance. Shapes, materials, colours, textures and finishes collide in irreverent and playful harmony; the Prickly pair chairs are a statement against prejudice and preconceptions.” Whatever that means. This chair doesn’t work on any level. We don’t want it in our home, and we don’t want to sit in it. If you want a cactus, buy a cactus.

Cupie Doll Table by Tamotu Okabe & Mariko Hosoki

Image credit: core77

Naked plastic baby cupie dolls doing the splits beneath a collection of perfectly edited coffee table books and a beautifully packaged clean burning soy candle is not our idea of design to inspire.

Stools by Adital Ela

Image credit: Behance

Big ups to the concept, but know that if you’re making stools out of manure, they don’t actually have to look like manure. The form’s nice, but get creative with the color! In keeping with the theme, there are plenty of pretty natural dyes out there ya know…

Fridtjof Coffee Table by Johannes Hemann

Image credit: Sonja Schwarz via Johannes Hemann

We know it’s cork, but it looks like manure!

Hair Chair by Baron & Baron

Image credit: freshome

Creepy is ugly.

Human Hair Chair by Chrystl Rijkeboer

Image credit: Chrystl Rijkeboer

OMG OMG OMG EW. Can you say heebie-jeebies?

Afro Chair by Yangsoo Pyo

Image credit: Retail Design Blog

We might as well have called this post, What Not to Do If You’re Designing Anything. Don’t represent obesity. Don’t use manure that looks like manure. And, don’t do hair.

Perspective Chair by Pharrell Williams

Image credit: HYPEBEAST

Pharrell, so much of what you do is so good. What happened here?