Last fall Amazon inked a deal with Target in which Amazon takes over much of’s distribution, customer service and eBiz infrastructure, while will sell books and music from Amazon.

Recent visits to Amazon suggest that at least part of the deal was about Amazon getting access to the sassy, sensually designed bric a brac that is the work of architect/designer Michael Graves. From coffee grinders to clocks, kettles to digital phones, Graves’ designs are curvy, playful and decidedly easy to look at — and they’re splashed all over the Amazon site.

The juxtaposition of Michael Graves’ trendy product line and Amazon’s system of consumer ratings and reviews offers an intriguing perspective…

The Graves Cordless Phone: “It is hard to hear people even with it cranked up to full volume. Confusing to use. Now has a red light flashing on it and I do not know why.” “The design is nice, but it is totally unusable as a phone. It makes a constant loud electronic sound like the sounds in sci fi movies from the ’50s.” “The phone had static no matter what channel you used and sometimes you could not answer it no matter how many times you pressed the talk button!!!”

The Graves Programmable Coffeemaker: “It looks so cute but just try to pour a freakin cup of coffee and it will go everywhere but your cup.” “No matter how careful or how slowly you try to pour it’s just a mess. I guess it’s a bad design. Sure it’s cute, but believe me that is the only thing good about this coffeemaker.”

The Graves Spinner Whistle Teakettle: “It doesn’t have any additional features other than its unique appearance, which frankly, looks more appealing on the web than in my kitchen.”

Easy to look at simply does not equate with easy to use… even when the products, and the designer, have won awards.

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