Unpleasant goes paperless….

In February 2013 we published the first eidtion of our Unpleasant Design book. The book gathered some of the most witty thoughts and images that described the popular phenomenon called hostile architectures, city design tricks or architectures of control. We have enjoyed and appreciated the interest our book raised among architects, futurists, journalists, citizens and other invested parties.

Our second edition is digital only, featuring new material and the good old Unpleasant theory. It is coming out on the 29th of July, available for preorder at amazon:


We look forward to hearing your thoughts on Unpleasantness in the future.

Milano Fashion Pigeon-Chiq

Pigeon-chiq-wear is a fashion collection that addresses the rise of unpleasant designs; sharp spikes at building facades, monuments, rooftops have been widely deployed in cities in order to deter birds and other animals. Such attitude to animals is seen as a metaphor for similar strategies against marginal social groups.
The fashion collection serves as playground for a future vision on wearables that exert similar authoritarian control. It explores the aesthetics of unpleasantness while at the same time highlighting its hostility increasingly found in contemporary urban design. The fashion collection was presented for the very first time in the streets of Milan in June 2014. A city that is known for its “pigeon problem”, especially around historical monuments, where most shots were taken.

Anti-pigeon hat

Anti-pigeon hat: Summer Rainbow

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Unpleasant Design workshop @ AMRO 2014

The Unpleasant Design team gave a workshop at the 2014 edition of AMRO – Art Meets Radical Openness in Linz, Austria. The workshop focused on generating pragmatic and site-specific solutions for unpleasantness in Linz.
During the Unpleasant City Research Tour we identified possible targets for such interventions, amongst them the new garbage bin design for city centre; flower decorations in the area where skaters hang out; the space under Lentos museum; open wireless networks which come with take your credentials in exchange for Internet traffic… These and other examples are featured on the workshop tumblr blog.
Following a brainstorming discussion on examples of unpleasantness participants have encountered in Linz and in other cities, we decided to focus on garbage bins. The new bins installed in Linz city centre feature a surface which is resistance to stickers and similar types of dirt. We already identified this bin as unpleasant and documented it on our site. It is made of rippled curved inox surface, impossible to attach paper or similar material to. We assume that the previous version of the bin was often target to grassroots advertising and personal messages, or that this design simply comes as fashion, invented elsewhere where this problem existed.
Our goal was to re-enable citizens of Linz to advertise and communicate on this surface, thus reclaiming a part of public space back from Unpleasant Design. For this purpose we created a ‘sticker-friendly mat’, adapted to the ripples on the bin’s surface. We first took a sample of the ripple pattern using a crayon and a piece of white paper. We copied these images and created a cutting template for the holes. We cut out the pattern on cardboard sheets and installed several of them onto the bins on Hauptplatz (Main square).


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No more dumpster diving in Belgrade

Our colleague and book contributor Nikola Korac designed a poster highlighting the exclusive garbage container situation in Belgrade.

Dumpster Diving

The recent change of Belgrade’s garbage collection system is being investigated by Vladan Jeremic in our book “Unpleasant Design”. It systematically performs social segregation based on design implementation. His essay “Greedy containers” focuses on the hidden politics on garbage removal of the city of Belgrade in which authorities deployed a waste container system that strategically eliminates any third-party usage purely by its design. The result is the profit for a few companies on one side and on the other side, displacement and removal of entire settlements of Roma people into the outskirts of the city without a proper social welfare programme.

Interview with Factory Furniture Design Team

On benefits of Unpleasant Design

Interview with the Factory Furniture Design Team, authors of the Camden bench

Unpleasant Design: We use Unpleasant Design as an umbrella term for all objects, devices and strategies aimed at influencing behaviour of people in ways that benefit particular social groups. It understands a design approach in which social impact is an inherent feature, preceding ergonomics or usability in the design brief. In our research, we came across your Camden bench, and other designs you created for urban spaces. Your website is one of the rare design sites where unpleasant design is explicitly listed and embedded in the design brief. How much is your design approach influenced by the Camden commission?

Factory Furniture: The ways in which seating is used in public areas has always interested us and in particular the effect of its use will have on an area. The positioning of furniture in urban areas has its problems and can attract anti social behaviour which can be unacceptable to residents especially if it is seen as a meeting place for groups. Ultimately we just like to produce well designed furniture, but the Camden was an extreme bench for a very specific brief. We have learnt a lot from that commission but we are firm believers that if you produce a good environment the problems of anti social behaviour are also reduced.

UD: The Camden bench is not your first “unpleasant” bench, if we might call it so. You feature numerous designs that “naturally deter skaters, rough sleeping and provide minimal surface area for tagging”. What inspired you first to focus on these design features?

FF: The Serpentine seat was our first public furniture design launched in 1991 and our first foray into the world of landscape furniture. At this point we noticed some very specific points of that design when compared to what was on the market at the time and noticed it was difficult to spend much time on if you were lying down and that the seats were not so prone to tagging or to skate abuse. We identified the main points about this design which encouraged its positive use and promoted these features as a way of not only promoting the product but to also draw attention to how behaviour can be manipulated to good use in design.

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The Businessman Protesting Kit

From Chindogu to NSA Unpleasant Design workshop given at the Urban Kinghts event gathered some inspiring designers, artists, and theoreticians around the topics of design, exclusion, discrimination and participation in the urban environment. We formed a small think tank to cogitate current trends in urban design and the social control inherent in them.

Having set for our goal a design that will enable only a particular behaviour, we considered Berlin-specific behaviours like bottle collecting, hipsters, walking with babies, drug dealing. We listed different persuasive and coercive design techniques that could target these groups (for example facial recognition software could be used to match criminals but also to distinguish whether somebody is a hipster).

In the light of the multitudinousness of ongoing protests against different forms of oppression, and the pending economic crisis, we decided to focus on businessmen. Our businessman is someone with rather uncomfortable routines, having a strict dess-code, always carrying a briefcase, always after creating profits. Although probably enjoying his income, he is somebody who has very little time for day-to-day joy, and he rarely gets to express his own beliefs. Thus, we decided to work towards enhancing the life of a businessman with a multi-purpose suite which can be worn to regular business meetings, while at the same time serving as a kit for spontaneous, sudden protest. What we came up with is a set of designs that subvert standard businessman’s outfit into an urban protesting kit.


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Talk and Workshop @ Urban Knights, Berlin

We are happy to announce a talk and a workshop within the Urban Knights series of events on urban practices and real-world situations organised by Teresa Dillon.
After a successful experience at the Lift Conference in February 2013, our next design challenge is “Between Chindogu and the NSA”. At the Unpleasant Design workshop, the participants will use persuasive and coercive design techniques to invent a design which targets a specific group, behaviour or product. We will focus particularly on technology enabled discrimination. As pervasive technology enters urban space, the configuration of the built environment will eventually change. The participants will be invited to actively take part in this change.
The workshop will be given by Selena Savic and Nikola Korac.

Workshop: Tuesday, 12 Nov, 11.00 – 16.00 at Weise7.
Places are limited. Cost €20. Book directly weise7.org
Talk: Tue-12 Nov, 19.00-21.00: Free Betahaus, Prinzessinnenstr. 19-20, Berlin

Book the workshop:

More details on:

unpleasant reading

Unpleasant Design Workshop @ liftconference13

We hosted a sprint-workshop at the Lift conference 13 in Geneva. Around ten participants joined the occasion to develop quick prototypes for unpleasant designs after we had brainstormed through various near-future scenarios.

We asked the participants to think about the “definition” of UNPLEASANT DESIGN, searching for techniques and tactics to be employed when designing “unpleasantness”. We then created a map of possible behaviours and/or social groups to discriminate against, out of which our protoypes were to emerge from. The following two sheets show the results of this thinking process.


defining unpleasantness: tools, techniques and strategies to be used when designing unpleasantness

 the 'to forbid list' - a map of behaviours and social groups unpleasant design could discriminate against

the ‘to forbid list’ – a map of behaviours and social groups unpleasant design could discriminate against

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The Anti high-heel conspiracy

grid_highheels Photo CC by Björn Sahlberg

Cobble stones, metal grids used on rooftops and staircases as well as soft ground materials are ideal structures where people with high-heels will have a hard-time. Fashionable victims risk ankle sprains and/or loosing their footwear. Interior architects might rethink carefully their material based on their clientele. The city of Lagos informs their visitor for “unpleasant” high-heel experience in its old downtown full with cobble stone.

159f7f3b6a3b2311ab075fe0b7d976ad_XL Photo CC by http://empowerment-gateway.com/

On Unpleasant Design

Unpleasant Design & Hostile Urban Architecture, interview with Roman Mars for 99% invisible, 07/2016

Anti-homeless spikes are just the latest in ‘defensive urban architecture’ in The Guardian, 06/2014

Nos villes sont de plus en plus hostiles, in Vice magazine France, 06/2014

«Неудобный дизайн», который так нужен нашим городам, on AdMe, 12/2013

Secret city design tricks manipulate your behaviour, article by Frank Swain on BBC Future, 12/2013

Ville rigide, ville sécuritaire : quand les bancs publics créent des exclusions
, in UrbaNews.fr, 12/2013

Pułapki na turystów – jak manipulują nami miasta, article in Wirtualna Polska, 12/2013

Les astuces des villes pour chasser les indésirables, article on Slate.fr, 12/2013

Secret city designs that are tricks, article in News.com.au, 12/2013

UNPLEASANT DESIGN aka cruel FirstWorld ingenuity, entry on Archinect, 12/2013

An interview with Nicolas Nova for Ethnography Matters blog, 10/2013

Book review in the Neural magazine, 08/2013

Book review by Regine Debatty on we make money not art, 04/2013

Unpleasant Design workshop review on Core77, 02/2013

Anti-skating obstacles

Skaters (skateboarders) all around the world’s parks have become a concern of the non-skating citizens. Skating is said to damage pavements and wall surfaces (e.g. an opinion expresses in this article on Victoria Gateway square), while people pasing by can feel unsafe when exposed to possible collisions with a person speeding on the board. Different strategies are used to deny them possible skating surfaces outside of specially dedicated skating parks. Many of these strategies involve adding screws, rings, or other metal obstacles to curbs, walls, pavement edges. These are all reactions to this newly-perceived problem, they do not necessarily have much to do with ‘design’.

To the countrary, some examples found in the city of Lausanne show that the skating-prevention thinking is already embeded in the design of some newly installed benches like the one bellow. Rings on the edges here are a built-in feature of the sitting surface.

unpleasant for pigeons

Wth this case study, we are going to and analyse the phenomenon and consequences of ‘unpleasant design’ for certain parts of population in our cities. We will do so by focusing on ‘unpleasant design for pigeons’, which itself is a niche within unpleasant design in general.

The majority of data is collected by direct observation – watching, photographing and noting different ways pigeons are prevented from landing on facades and other surfaces. We consulted documentation from mass media advertising, focusing on online resources for pigeon-deterent devices and services. We extensively survey blogs and forums where people discussed problems with pigeons.

a group of pigeons usually found in city centres

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gait recognition

surveillance with cameras on the streets? nothing new.
going beyond the power of video equipment based on earth, gait recognition uses satellite imagery to recognize and trace a person by the way they walk.


never walk in sunshine (avoid having a shadow);
carry an umbrella;
walk silly;
ride a bike;

speed cameras

Cameras installed on high-ways and roads where drivers are expected to drive very fast, allow police to track the cars going over the speed limit by taking photos of their license plates and then matching the image to the number. This way, they end up simply sending you a bill without stopping the traffic and having to keep policemen on the street.

photo courtesy of Chriszwolle


install very bright LEDs around your plate, making it impossible to photograph the number;
use photo blocker spray (http://www.motorshop1.co.uk/photoblocker.htm);
install a slave-flash, triggered when you are at risk, overexposing the photograph;

CCTV enhanced

A lot of debate has been going on around closed circuit video surveillance in cities, since the mid 1980s when they became regularly introduced in US and later the UK. Simple video surveillance is today often equipped with facial recognition and motion tracking, to make more efficient use of the system. With the excuse of the ‘war on terrorism’, enhanced video surveillance systems have been deployed at airports, massive(sports) events, and night clubs.

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— n
the surveillance of a person’s activities by studying the data trail created by actions such as credit card purchases, mobile phone calls, and internet use

from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dataveillance

As the authors of Net Locality* define it:

“Surveillance is more than just hidden cameras and undercover police officers; environments track us through our voluntary exposure of personal data”

“location-aware devices normalize data-veillance and make it a necessary component of our everyday interactions with the web”

* Gordon, E., & de Souza e Silva, A. (2011). Net Locality. The handbook of internet studies. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. doi:10.1002/9781444340679. p. 11

Unpleasant Design Competition !!!

un·pleas·ant Adjective /ˌənˈplezənt/
1. discomfort, unhappiness, or revulsion; disagreeable
2. obstacles, psychological and sensual manipulation in common/public space
3. … and ways to overcome it

Open Call for Submissions

Unpleasant design is an accumulation of urban phenomena in which social control is inherent in the design solution. It is playing a significant role in the way we perceive and engage in public, semi-public and private space. Can there be such a thing as intentionally unpleasant design? Can we use these solutions to impose a code of conduct in public space? Does it solve the problems or generate new ones?

We need your design solution.

Submissions due: Friday, May 25, 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1) Saturday June 30, 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1)