Bad Product Design Featured Image
By Owen Fay . Posted on January 18, 2023

Product design can make or break your business, and the functionality, usability, acceptance, and overall design must be considered before bringing your product to market. It involves researching and identifying consumer needs, conceptualizing ideas, and then designing and testing a prototype. The end goal of product design is to create a functional, visually appealing, and desirable product for consumers.

Unfortunately, not all product designs are created equal. Some products are recalled due to a bad design that can be dangerous or even deadly. Bad product design has a massive impact on your consumers and your business. In this blog post, we will take a look at the top 10 products that were recalled due to bad design and discuss the lessons that can be learned from these examples.

The Top 10 Products That Were Recalled Due To Bad Product Design

1. The Ford Pinto

Image of a Ford Pinto

The Ford Pinto was a subcompact car produced by the Ford Motor Company from 1970 to 1980. Unfortunately, the Pinto had a serious design flaw that made it prone to fuel leaks and explosions in rear-end collisions. This flaw resulted in the deaths of at least 27 people and numerous injuries. In 1978, Ford recalled 1.5 million Pintos to fix the problem, but it was too late. Pinto’s reputation was forever tarnished and remains one of the most infamous examples of terrible product design.

“The Pinto case is a classic example of how corporate culture can become a barrier to ethical decision-making.” – Michael C. Jensen, Harvard Business Review.

The lesson to be learned here is that if you rush a product to market and fail to consider all of the flaws, it might do more damage than just hurt sales. If Ford had invested some of their time in a detailed examination of their product and tested it before launch, it could have avoided these issues.

2. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was a high-end smartphone released in 2016. But there was one big flaw, the phone had an issue that caused the battery to overheat and explode. Samsung issued a recall and eventually replaced the faulty phones, but not before numerous reports of injuries and property damage. The Note 7 recall resulted in a loss of over $5 billion for Samsung and severely damaged the company’s reputation.

“The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall is a case study in how not to handle a crisis.” – David Johnson, Strategic Public Relations

Samsung decided that they needed to get their phone to the market regardless of if they were using the best or most appropriate materials. Beta testing or user testing their product with the target audience or just phone users, in general, could have avoided this costly recall.

3. The Hoverboard

hoverboard image

Hoverboards, also known as self-balancing scooters, were popular items in 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately, many hoverboards were found to have faulty batteries that could overheat and catch fire. As a result, hundreds of thousands of hoverboards were recalled and banned from being sold. In addition to the fire hazard, some hoverboards were also found to be poorly constructed and prone to breakage.

“The hoverboard recall serves as a reminder that regulations and safety testing are essential to protecting consumers.” – Consumer Reports

Hoverboards became a big trend in 2015, many companies jumped on board to sell a product they knew would sell. However, the fierce competition and push from companies to get products to market caused a lot of issues. Poor construction, a lack of revision, and failure to test products before going live led to a huge recall that surely hurt many companies.

4. The Nap Nanny

The Nap Nanny

The Nap Nanny was a popular baby recliner that was sold between 2009 and 2012. But, the product had a design flaw that made it dangerous for infants. Five babies died while using the Nap Nanny, and dozens more were injured. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued multiple warnings and recalls for the Nap Nanny, but the product remained on the market until it was finally discontinued in 2013.

“The Nap Nanny tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of the importance of product safety. It’s crucial for companies to test and re-evaluate their products to ensure they are safe for consumers, especially for children.” – Inez Tenenbaum, CPSC Chairman

When you sell a product to users who care about safety more than anything, it is important to ensure the product is as secure as possible. This is where the Nap Nanny failed, without thorough testing, the customer was the one to find issues. This caused harm to not only multiple families but the company and its reputation.

5. The Winchester Model 94 Rifle

The Winchester Model 94 Rifle was a popular hunting rifle that was produced from 1894 to 2006. However, a design flaw in the rifle’s safety mechanism led to numerous accidents and deaths. In 2005, Winchester issued a recall for the Model 94 Rifle, citing the safety defect as the reason. This recall was the largest recall of firearms in U.S. history, affecting over 4 million rifles.

“The Winchester Model 94 recall is a sobering reminder that even long-standing and well-respected products can have dangerous flaws. It’s crucial for manufacturers to constantly evaluate and improve their products to ensure they are safe for use.” – Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association

A product that has safety concerns, regardless of the design or functionality, cannot have other defects. These products need to have a sound design that isn’t prone to additional safety issues. Product testing and extensively checking functionality can help avoid design flaws that cause harm to everyone.

6. The General Electric Oven

GE oven

The General Electric oven was a household appliance produced by General Electric between 1959 and 1985. Unfortunately, a design flaw in the oven’s heating element caused a number of fires and resulted in numerous injuries and deaths. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued multiple warnings and recalls for the oven, but many units remained in use for many years.

“The General Electric oven case highlights the importance of proper design and quality control to ensure the safety of consumer products.” – Anne Marie Squeo, Wall Street Journal

As Anne Marie Squeo said, product testing, quality control, and proper design can avoid flaws and make your products safe for users. A recall is extremely costly, and the potential harm a faulty product can do to your customers is an even bigger concern. These issues could have been avoided if GE had invested in quality control and testing.

7. The Chevy Cobalt

2005 Chevy cobalt

The Chevy Cobalt was a compact car produced by General Motors between 2005 and 2010. However, a design defect in the ignition switch caused the car to stall while driving, cutting off power to the brakes, steering, and airbags. This defect resulted in at least 124 deaths and many injuries. General Motors issued a recall for the Chevy Cobalt in 2014, but it was too late to prevent the tragic consequences of the faulty design.

“The Chevy Cobalt case is a devastating reminder of the importance of corporate responsibility and transparency. Companies are obligated to ensure their products are safe for the public and promptly address any defects that may arise.” – Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen

Yet another case of a product that didn’t undergo quality control, testing, or pass basic standards for a motor vehicle. Just like with any of these issues, if the company fulfilled its obligation to keep the customer safe, the disastrous impact of the poor design might have never happened.

8. The Ikea Malm Dresser

The Ikea Malm Dresser was a popular piece of furniture produced by Ikea between 2002 and 2016. However, a design flaw in the dresser caused it to tip over easily, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries of young children. Ikea issued multiple recalls for the Malm Dresser and eventually discontinued the product.

“The Ikea Malm Dresser case shows the importance of consumer product safety standards and regulations. It is crucial for companies to design and test their products to ensure they are safe for consumers, especially for children.” – Elliot Kaye, CPSC Chairman

Safety standards and regulations are put in place to mitigate injuries or worse from a consumer product, when a business fails to meet them, issues arise for the user and the company. Product testing allows companies to understand how the audience would use the product and can help them find these issues that could cause irreparable damage before they go live.

9. The Firestone Tire

The Firestone tire was a popular brand of tire produced by Firestone between the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, a design defect caused the tire to tread separately from the rest of the tire at high speeds, resulting in numerous accidents and deaths. Ford and Firestone issued a recall for millions of Firestone tires in 2000, and the incident resulted in significant financial loss for both companies as well as loss of consumer trust in the brand.

“The Firestone tire recall serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining the safety of products, and the critical role played by proper testing and quality control in the production process.” – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Testing and quality control are important when launching a product that deals with transportation. Like many of these examples, if Firestone thoroughly tested their tires in all situations they would be used, the issue could have been identified and fixed.

10. The Peloton Tread+

Peleton tread+

The Peloton Tread+ is an exercise machine produced by Peloton that was released in 2020. But, a design defect with the Tread+ caused accidents, resulting in multiple injuries and deaths. The company issued a recall for the Tread+ in 2021, citing concerns about the machine’s safety. The recall was the result of a number of children and a pet dying after getting pulled under the machine.

“The Peloton Tread+ recall is a serious reminder of the importance of safety in product design and the importance of rigorous testing before launching new products.” – Consumer Reports

We’ve covered ten examples of how bad product design leads to injury, death, and other damage. Proper testing and following safety standards can help avoid all of these issues. Product design is vital to your business, and customer satisfaction, testing, and quality control are part of any good business for a reason. They save your business time, money, and headache with a small investment in proper product design.

Impacts of Bad Product Design:

Impacts of Bad Product Design Infographic

Bad product design can have a variety of negative impacts on both the manufacturer and the consumer.

1. Inefficiency:

Poorly designed products may not function as efficiently as they could, leading to unhappy customers, injuries, damage, or worse. For example, a poorly designed appliance may use more electricity to perform the same task as a well-designed one.

2. Difficulty in Repairing or Upgrading:

Bad product design can also make it difficult or expensive to repair or upgrade them when needed. When you launch a product and issues are found after launch, it is difficult to repair the damage you’ve already done. Testing and optimizing the product before launch will reduce the cost and difficulty of launching a product that works.

3. Lower Sales:

It can also result in lower sales, as consumers may be less likely to purchase a poorly designed product. Furthermore, it can lead to a decrease in brand reputation and customer loyalty. When a user buys your product and finds that it doesn’t work as intended, has flaws, or is just bad, they are more likely to never buy your product and dissuade others from coming to your company.

4. Increased Production Costs:

From a business perspective, bad product design can lead to increased production costs due to the need for redesign, suboptimal materials, or even manufacturing processes. Additionally, the cost of a recall is huge, you will spend far more recalling a bad product than you would testing and optimizing the design before you go live.

5. Safety Hazards:

Bad product design can also lead to safety hazards for users. For example, a poorly designed power tool may be prone to kickback, which can cause injury to the user. Similarly, a poorly designed car seat may not properly protect a child in the event of a crash. The issues your company encounters if a product is unsafe can be detrimental to a business.

6. Customer Dissatisfaction:

From a consumer perspective, bad product design can result in difficult or uncomfortable products, leading to dissatisfaction and a lack of trust in the brand. Your brand depends on the customers, if they aren’t happy with your design, your business will lose its audience and have a very hard time growing.

7. Brand Damage:

Bad product design can also lead to negative perceptions of a brand, as consumers may associate poor design with poor quality. This can be difficult to recover from, especially for small companies or newcomers in the market.

Overall, bad product design can have far-reaching and wide-ranging impacts on both consumers and manufacturers, it can cause loss of sales, customer trust, and even public safety hazards. It is essential for manufacturers to invest in the design process and use a design thinking approach to create products that not only meet the consumer’s needs but also are functional, safe, and sustainable.

Testing Products Before Launch

product testing

Poll the People is a platform that allows you to gather feedback on your product from a panel of over 500,00 users that can represent your target users. To test a product using Poll the People, you can follow these steps:

  1. Create a product test using the Poll the People platform. This test should include questions about the product’s usability, design, and allow you to understand overall satisfaction.
  2. Launch the test with a statistically significant number of users from our panel, including potential customers, beta testers, and industry experts. This will give you a wide range of feedback on your product.
  3. Collect and analyze the test results in our easy-to-understand results dashboard to identify any areas that need improvement. Use this feedback to make changes to your product before launching it to the public.
  4. Repeat the test after making changes to your product to see if the feedback has improved.

By testing your product with Poll the People, you can gather valuable feedback from a diverse group of users. Our automatic response rejection removes the poor responses, so they don’t appear in your results, giving you only the best feedback on your test. On other platforms, you will get about 80% ok responses. With Poll the People, you get 95-100% of the responses you need because we reject the 20% of bad responses before you see them. This feedback can help you improve your product before it is released to the public, increasing the chances of success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important for companies to recall products with bad designs?

“Recalling a product is not only the right thing to do for consumer safety, but it is also important for a company’s reputation and bottom line,” said an industry expert. “Consumers have a right to expect that the products they purchase are safe and reliable, and companies have a responsibility to address any design flaws or defects in a timely manner.”

How do consumers find out if a product they own has been recalled?

“Consumers can check the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to see if a product they own has been recalled,” said another industry expert. “They can also sign up for email alerts to stay informed about the latest recalls.”

What are some common reasons for product recalls due to bad design?

“Product recalls can be caused by a variety of factors, including design flaws, manufacturing defects, and inadequate safety testing,” said an industry expert. “Design flaws can include issues with how a product is constructed, such as weak spots or structural weaknesses, as well as problems with the user interface or controls.”

What should consumers do if they own a product that has been recalled due to bad design?

“If a consumer owns a product that has been recalled, they should stop using it immediately and contact the manufacturer or retailer for instructions on how to return the product and receive a refund or replacement,” said an industry expert. “It’s important for consumers to take these recalls seriously and not ignore them, as they can pose a serious safety hazard.”

How does bad product design affect the environment?

“Bad product design can contribute to environmental problems in a number of ways,” said an industry expert. “It can lead to products that are not durable and therefore more likely to be thrown away and replaced more frequently. Additionally, poorly designed products may consume more resources, such as energy, than necessary, and can produce hazardous waste, such as chemicals or pollutants, when they are disposed of.”


In conclusion, bad product design can have a wide range of negative impacts on both consumers and manufacturers. It’s crucial for companies to prioritize the design process. This requires more than just design aesthetics; it needs a thorough understanding of the product’s purpose, the user’s needs, and the functional and safety requirements.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to focus solely on the latest trends and the newest technology. Still, it’s important to remember that a well-designed product is stylish, safe, efficient, and sustainable. Companies and consumers alike should strive to prioritize good design in order to create a better and safer future for all.

Product testing, quality control, and thorough examination of the product before launch is the best way to avoid injury, damage, and costly recall with your products. To test your product in a remote environment with users from your target audience, sign up for Poll the People and get 50% off your first test.

Owen Fay

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