check out the bathroom.

toothbrushes on toothbrush holderA couple years ago, we updated our bathroom/utility room. We didn’t do a major redesign, mind you. We fixed the ceiling, painted the walls, moved a shelf, and got new accessories.

I think that you call them accessories. The towel bar and the toothbrush holder is what they are, functionally.

We used to have chrome, now we have white.

Two years ago.


Nancy worked as a dental assistant in a previous career path. As a result, she’s serious about going to the dentist. I dislike dentists (not as people, mind you), but I have gotten good at going every six months or so. Our kids are much better than I am, having grown up with minimal cavity action and positive brace expereinces.

When we go to the dentist, we get new toothbrushes. (Mine is always blue. That way I don’t have to remember). Sometime during the past two years, our dentist got trendy. He started giving away the fancier designs, the newer designs.

Therein is the problem.

Because toothbrushes are now made to fit your hand and mouth, they don’t fit the toothbrush holder.

All of our toothbrushes no longer fit the toothbrush holder.

No one in toothbrush R and D said, “but we have such a large installed base of toothbrush holders, we can’t roll out a design that won’t fit.”

If they did, someone probably said, “That circle part, people can put a cup in there.”

“But what about those holes? What will people do with the holes?”

“That’s not our problem. They are getting free toothbrushes and their teeth are getting cleaner and the handle fits their hands better and besides, we can make the larger handles look much cooler.

Who cares that people now have accessories that have to use a different product to be helpful. Who cares that you have to accessorize the accessory.”


I’m guessing that there is a lesson here. There are probably many.

One of them is this.  Consider convergence of design when your designers come from two different worlds. I’m guessing that the bathrooms accessory designers go to different schools than the dental cleaning appliance designers. They work at different kinds of companies. But two years ago, I’m pretty sure that holder designers knew what was happening to toothbrushes and toothbrush designers knew how big the holders were.

Both groups forgot that real people have to put their toothbrushes somewhere. And in the little bathroom in our lower level, that means on-rather than in-the toothbrush holder.

So here’s my suggestion. If you design stuff, if you teach stuff, if you are working with people living in the real world, sometime while you’re working, go to the bathroom.


4 responses to “check out the bathroom.

  1. First, this makes me laugh–it is such a Jon post!

    Second, thanks for this reminder–and I can think of some other people I know that would benefit from reading this too.

  2. You’re on right on target. We have two bathrooms with built in holders and none of the toothbrushes fit. So we use a $.99 acrylic drinking cup from Target in the girls’ bathroom, because as you said, none of the nicely designed matching toothbrush holders actually fit. In the boys’ bathroom, they lay their toothbrushes across the holder – just like in the picture.

    Love the ending – it made me laugh, “sometime while you’re working, go to the bathroom.”

  3. It all boils down to usability. That is so important in nearly any aspect of life.

    Heather and I are always talking about this. Her newly-completed degree relates to the web aspects of this.

    If everyone did their homework in this area, I’d have at least a half-hour more everyday to spend playing.

  4. What a great post – very funny and very true.
    Thanks for the laugh!