Dew Gibbons + Partners




I recall reading, many years ago, probably over a decade, a rant from design maven Richard Seymour in which he raged against the thoughtlessness of some very common items around us. In particular, the subject of his rant was the ridiculous leather laces that come with deck shoes, which refuse to stay laced up for more than five minutes at a time.

The subject of my rant is the absurd wooden hot drink stirrers that are now seemingly ubiquitous in coffee shops.

Why oh why am I expected to stir my coffee with a tiny ineffectual stick that offers barely any resistance to the liquid it’s supposed to be mixing? Let alone it actually being capable of agitating any sugar, should I have the audacity to add it!

I get that the environmental impact of wooden stirrers is significantly less than plastic spoons or stirrers (wood uses more resources initially but pollutes far less than plastic, and metal teaspoons are bound to go awol AND require water, chemicals and energy to clean even if they stay there). But why do they not work? Every item designed has a job to do, regardless of their aesthetics or sustainability: this excuse for an item is fundamentally not fit for purpose.

Imagine my joy then, when the other day I pitch up at my local Waitrose for my free coffee and find that the wooden stirrers have been replaced by the wooden spoon – a major breakthrough for coffee drinkers the world over.

We live with examples of bad design all around us and it’s only their sheer ubiquity and familiarity that prevents us from doing anything about it. It’s so easy to assume that the thinking’s been done correctly, so easy not to challenge the status quo.

Hopefully the wooden stirrer will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history and any left over be usefully up-/re-cycled in a manner more useful for which they were intended but failed so completely. But we should all be looking for ways to improve our lives in the way Waitrose have done with this simple switch to a spoon. No excuses.

What ubiquitous daily item do you think is sorely due a radical overhaul or replacement entirely? Tell us on our Facebook page!

More rants from Steve:
A shout out for OUR Baby Dove 
It’s good to talk – let’s do lunch 
Beautiful Thinking – with a new voice