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Pigs and Bowling Balls; Lipstick and Lace

Posted October 19, 2011

What do “putting lipstick on a pig” and “putting lace on a bowling ball” have in common? Two things:

  1. Neither has ever worked. Lipstick has ever made a pig more attractive, and lace has never improved a bowling ball. Neither fool anyone, and often insult the intelligence of the target audience.
  2. Both sayings are often used by people as a acceptable solution to a fundamental problem with design or function. They aren’t metaphors that are supposed to be answers; they are metaphors that are supposed to point out pointless and ineffective measures to improve something.

If you say “it’s like putting lipstick on a pig / lace on a bowling ball,” you should be referring to a failed, obvious attempt at dressing something up, which only served to make the original offending article more apparent.

If you use those metaphors as a solution – you’re missing the point. Neither has ever worked. No amount of lipstick or lace will improve your pig. If you have dolled up your pig, it was a mistake and should be reversed. If you are suggesting we doll up the big – it’s a mistake and should be reevaluated.

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I love all things experience design. I work as a Principal Service Experience Designer at Intuit in Mountain View, CA.