Here’s an example. My sister and I planned to go on a vacation on an island so we booked a “designed” hotel featuring ocean and marine life. When we arrived, we saw walls painted with fishes, crabs and dolphins. The whole room was shouting out the word “sea” with the incredibly huge pink sea shell shaped headboard, the star fish night light and sea horses on every door handle. Wouldn’t it be terrifying if a product was designed that way?
Fulfilling the demand is the primary goal of designing. In this case, the goal of creating atmosphere is fulfilled and overdone. Unreasonable demand for quantity, quality, etc. beyond usual standards can also lead to overdesign. Clotheshorses made with plastic and iron wire are designed to be made of titanium. Or an alarm clock has eight or nine functions, but only one or two will be used. This is the excessive demand that leads to overdesign.
Not only the demand of quality and quantity but the purpose of the product itself is beyond the ordinary scope. The purpose of design is to make life less troublesome. But are these conveniences really necessary?
The handheld automatic dishwasher is an impractical invention that bowls and plates still need to be put in the machine one by one manually. Using it is neither faster nor easier than using a normal dish washer. The demand is simple but the design takes a far detour to reach its destination. The “thoughtfulness” of the product is redundant and those so-called designs for lazy people are often unnecessary moves.
Whether a product is over or under designed depends on the demands of user. Designers must not assume the scenario from his/her point of view. Product designers must keep reminding themselves that they cannot satisfy everyone. The more demand they want to meet, the more elements will be added to the design which will eventually turn into a mess.