The case of McDonald’s Coffee Spoon

Sometimes an object does not take onto the function it was intended to.

In the late 1970s, it had came to McDonald’s attention that their small plastic coffee spoon for stirring hot beverages was widely being misused for measuring and snorting powered cocaine as well as PCP, an animal tranquillizer with hallucinogenic properties. This practice became such a fad amongst the drug users in the United States that it was dubbed the “Mcspoon” and often sold in Detroit spoons in a bundle of ten to twelve.

To protect its image from anymore association with illegal drug activities, McDonald addressed to the problem by redesigning the coffee spoon. It replaced the end of stirrer with a flat paddle. While the redesign didn’t stop people from using those stirrers for drug use, it did, to an extension, saved McDonald’s reputation from further damage.

As much careful thinking and research went into the design of this coffee stirrer, McDonald nevertheless would not expected that its primary function to distribute sugar in hot drinks overtime could go through such dramatic change. Objects constantly evolve and adapt in terms of its function and design. How it arrived at such usage is completely by design accident. It so happens that the coffee spoon would have the right size and surface to contain cocaine. A new culture had entered and created a new need; coincidentally, McDonald’s spoon-ended coffee stirrer considered by drug users was the right existing tools  to adapt its need.

This problematic functional change  did not occur out of the product design’s flaw though, but rather in the society’s fluctuating needs.  All businesses have to understand how external environmental factors can impose on their products. Although when left alone, some of these factors are out of their control, like McDonald, in case these do happen, initiate more of a thoughtful change to the concerned product’s design.

Source: Stirring response

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