Let’s be blunt: It’s human nature to be mesmerized by other people’s failures. Sports broadcasters and movie DVDs show us highlight reels of athlete and actor bloopers for entertainment. War documentaries hyperfocus on historic military blunders. And even in our industry, there’s a strong sense of “schadenfreude,” the phenomenon of secretly enjoying the mistakes of others. 

In any case, those who seek to learn from their mistakes become better engineers and designers. And it’s far more preferable to learn these lessons from other people’s mistakes, saving yourself the aggravation (and winding up being on one of these lists).

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at several notorious consumer product design failures and what went wrong.

Juicero Press (2017)

The Product: The Juicero was a $400 internet-connected juicer that used single-serving packets of chopped organic fruits and vegetables sold exclusively by the company by subscription. The company, which targeted restaurants and health food enthusiasts, raised $120 million in investments and shut down six months after launch.

Why was this an epic fail?

  • The over-engineered device, which included 400 custom parts and delivered 4 tons of force, could be replicated by simply squeezing the fruit and vegetable packets by hand. Given this, the juice press was redundant and unnecessary, quickly shifting from a Silicon Valley darling to a social media laughingstock

  • It was an overly complex solution to a simple problem. Does a juice machine truly need to be connected to the internet? 

  • Juicero was a pricey appliance, requiring an initial $400 investment plus $5-$8 for a single juice packet. That didn’t compare favorably to the cost-per-serving at a trendy juice bar.

Lessons Learned: Juicero remains a cautionary tale for all product designers. Successful innovation is not about creating solutions in search of a problem. Seek “simple” solutions for even “complex” problems. 

Hoverboard (2015-2016)

The Product: When hoverboards caught wind in 2015 – becoming an internet sensation thanks to celebrities like Justin Bieber and Mike Tyson – many overseas manufacturers followed suit and began creating their version of the product. With the holiday season nearing, these toys marked the top of many kids’ lists. However, six months later, more than 500,000 hoverboards were recalled for the risk of fire or explosions. 

Why was this a product design failure?

  • The brand-new segway industry and a saturated market compounded with time-to-market pressure encouraged corner-cutting.

  • There were virtually no internal safety-engineering standards for many of these companies and no safety standards to regulate suppliers. 

  • About 27,000 kids landed in hospitals from batteries overheating and bursting into flames.

Lessons Learned*: Giving precedence to swiftness over safety will harm companies and industries in the long run. Manufacturers of startups neglected the necessity of a battery management system, which is why thousands of batteries were bursting at the expense of consumers’ good faith.

*In April 2023, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled around 53,000 Jetson hoverboards due to reports of fire hazards.  

Apple Magic Mouse 2 (2015)

The Product: Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 is a wireless and rechargeable mouse connecting to macOS products.

Why was this an epic fail?

  • Where’s the innovation? The second generation of the Magic Mouse looks almost identical to the first generation edition. (Spoiler alert: The newest generation still looks the same.)

  • OK, we could argue that the rechargeable battery is better than replacing AA batteries every month or so.

  • But the USB port is located at the bottom of the mouse, making it useless when charging – hardly a real innovation.

Lessons Learned: When aesthetics is prioritized over practicality, you get the Apple Magic Mouse. Because of the tight and inflexible design, changing the USB port to another, more obvious location would improve the experience.

Google Glass (2013-2015)


The Product: Google Glass was a wearable, voice-controlled Android device that resembled a pair of eyeglasses and displayed information directly in the user's field of vision.

Why was this an epic fail?

  • Consumers didn’t know what problems a wearable computer would solve for them and why they needed a $1,500 pair of glasses.

  • The design wasn’t aesthetically appealing. As The Guardian put it, users of the product looked like “dorks,” the “contemporary version of those 1950s engineers who always had several pens and a propelling pencil in their top jacket pockets.”

  • There was a public backlash over privacy concerns. Because the glasses allowed wearers to clandestinely record video – unlike the obvious presence of cell phone cameras – the product made bystanders uncomfortable. Nightclub bouncers, for example, banned patrons from wearing them. 

  • The same safety fears about cell phones and radio frequency radiation were magnified with Google Glass because it was meant to be worn on your face all the time.

Lessons Learned: Technologies looking for a problem to solve have a very high probability of failing. Product designers need to solve problems that customers care about and are willing to pay to resolve. Do not fall into the “If we build it, they will come” mindset. 

Coolest Cooler (2014)


The Product: The Coolest Cooler is an all-in-one outdoor entertainment solution for tailgating, camping, boating, picnics, beach parties, barbecues, and anytime you’re enjoying the great outdoors. It includes a blender, Bluetooth speaker, USB charger, LED light, oversized wheels, bottle opener, and bungee tie-down. The company initially raised $13 million from 60,000 customers pledging $165 and more for a cooler, making it the highest-funded Kickstarter campaign of 2014. But 20,000 early backers had still not received their coolers two years after the promised delivery date, sparking an investigation from the Oregon Department of Justice. You can read a letter from CEO/founder Ryan Grepper to his angry customers here.

Why was this a product design failure?

  • The cost of development, manufacturing, and shipping each cooler was $235, far exceeding what customers pledged on Kickstarter.

  • The company began selling the cooler on Amazon for $400 with immediate availability to make up for the shortfall. This caused further resentment amongst loyal Kickstarter customers, inspiring a flood of vengeful 1-star reviews on Amazon.

Lessons Learned:
Great renderings and videos may help pre-sell an idea, but developing the full product and manufacturing it at necessary margins is a different ballgame and multiple times harder. Your supply chain can make or break your product. This can’t be an afterthought.

3D Television (2010)

The Product: 3D TV was a television that conveyed 3D depth perception to the viewer for special 3D-formatted programming. Experiencing the effect usually required wearing specialized plastic glasses (like the 3D movie glasses), but some TV sets offered a simulated 3D mode that could be viewed with the naked eye. Major television manufacturers such as LG, Sony, and Samsung were initially on board, along with some TV networks.

Why was this poor product design? 

  • There was an awkward user experience with viewers wearing cheap plastic, bulky, and uncomfortable 3D glasses. Eye strain and dizziness were reported by 20-25% of users. Although this may have been a tolerable tradeoff for a single movie-watching experience, it did not translate well to ongoing daily use.

  • Developers were caught in a Catch-22.  Zero 3D content available at the product launch meant low TV sales. Low TV sales meant no motivation for content creators to create new content.

Lessons Learned: User experience at every touch point can make or break a product. Adding friction to the customer experience by requiring users to do more work will reduce adoption. Users do not desire products – they desire to accomplish an outcome. Customers want to do less work using your product, not more. The only exception is if doing incremental work makes them realize more benefits than before.

Furthermore, designers can’t focus on just the product. The ecosystem in which their product lives also matters tremendously. Consumers now expect instant gratification and do not have the patience to wait. If your product can’t be used and enjoyed immediately, it will not win.

Microsoft Zune (2006-2012)

The Product: The Zune was a portable digital music player from Microsoft launched as a competitor to the Apple iPod.

Why was this an epic fail?

  • Too late to the party: Microsoft launched the Zune five years after the Apple iPod established itself as the dominant market leader. 

  • The Zune had no unique or innovative differentiation compared to the iPod. It did not solve any problems that the iPod was not already solving. As Robbie Bach, the former head of Microsoft’s home entertainment unit, later admitted, the Zune “wasn’t a bad product, but it was still a chasing product, and there wasn’t a reason for somebody to say, ‘Oh, I have to go out and get that thing.’”

  • The Zune was also a casualty of Insufficient marketing, though this could not have made much of a difference given the lack of product differentiation. “We did some really artsy ads that appealed to a very small segment of the music space,” recalled Bach, “and we didn’t captivate the broad segment of music listeners.”

Lessons Learned: Products must have a clear and unique product differentiation. “Me too” products will not succeed without a well-established market leader. Changing consumer behavior or making them switch products is hard. They need a compelling reason and benefits to make the switch. Throwing marketing dollars behind a flawed product is usually the equivalent of flushing money down the toilet.

The Dreamcast (1998-2001)

sega dreamcast

The Product: Leading the pack, the Dreamcast was the premier console in the sixth console generation, which also gave birth to the PlayStation, Xbox, and GameCube. While the Dreamcast may have been ahead of the game, SEGA could never establish a brand name for itself. 

Why was this a product design failure?

  • SEGA dropped a series of five devices from 1989 to 1999, which in turn only confused gamers as to what each release did.

  • SEGA’s previous launches, the SEGA CD and SEGA 32X, have been dubbed some of the worst game consoles of all time

  • When Sony released the PlayStation 2, the Dreamcast didn’t have a fighting chance against its better-established competitors. 

Lessons Learned: Rather than polishing its designs to the fullest, SEGA developed a poor reputation, ultimately harming the Dreamcast's release. Before introducing new material to the public, brands need to ensure that their products shine brightly and repair damage to their reputation.

Sony Betamax (1975)

Sony BetamaxA Sony Betamax C7 video recorder. (de.wikipedia.org/Bettenburg)

The Product: When launched in 1975, the Sony Betamax was the first home-use video recording technology available in the market. However, one year later, Sony competitor JVC introduced the VHS, which began the videotape format war. By 1980, VHS took hold of the market, becoming the de facto videotape format in the U.S. and elsewhere. Despite losing market dominance, Betamax cassettes were still produced up until discontinuation in 2016. 

Why was this poor product design?

  • While Sony touted Betamax’s higher video quality to justify a higher cost, consumers continually opted for the cheaper technology.

  • The Betamax had a shorter recording capacity than the VHS. Depending on the recording quality, VHS could record over 2 hours of content, while the Betamax was limited to 1 hour, which was much too short to record a movie to watch later.

  • Sony didn’t focus on marketing the Betamax for the then-burgeoning video-rental market, allowing JVC to dominate.

Lessons Learned:
Sony ignored market demands after launching the Betamax. Consumers wanted something cheap to record movies and rent cassettes from rental stores. Even though the Betamax was a breakthrough innovation, Sony’s attempt at dictating the market backfired.

Fun Fact: While Betamax failed commercially, its impact on the way we consume media continues. When Betamax hit the U.S. market, entertainment companies in Hollywood sued Sony over copyright infringement worries, which went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled in Sony’s favor, paving the way for on-demand content.

Biggest Consumer Product Design Fails

So there you have it: A rubber-necked stroll of some of the biggest consumer product design failures of the recent past. It’s easy to point fingers and find scapegoats after the fact. The truth is that we’re all at risk of being blinded by our own brilliance. Even the cleverest product ideas executed by the most talented engineers are destined to fail if manufacturing, marketing, sales, and product distribution challenges aren’t considered from the very beginning.

Even the most talented design teams can sometimes fail when we think that there’s surely someone smarter than us who will address the problem. So, let’s end the cycle there. If there’s anything we can learn from these mistakes, it’s that developing a system for swift review is critical before launching products to the public. 

Cloud-native CAD software that easily integrates into existing workflows can help teams eliminate costly mistakes by increasing transparency and communication. Try out Onshape, the only truly cloud-native CAD with built-in PDM. Test your designs and get feedback from peers to avoid design blunders.