It’s a cliche. Why work on something where a solution has already been found? A lid to pour liquids? Why on earth would we want something new there? But for the finicky designer of the snap-on lid, the problem of drips was all too real. Pouring out of spouts or the little ‘v’ shaped indentation invariably let a few drops spill onto the counter. And that was not acceptable. So we now have a snap on lid that pours in a clear stream, without dripping. Take a look. It may not be essential, but in some strange way, it is reassuring to know that there are people working on the world’s insignificant problems as well. Here’s this solution to the wet toothbrush problem. Keeping the brush horizontal after brushing helps it dry faster, but keeping it upright in a box along with the other brushes means that it could tangle with the other family brushes. Compared to meteorites hitting the earth or the coup in your country, this is a laughable problem to tackle. But this answer looks snazzy, bright and perky on your bathroom counter, enthusiastically bobbing this way and that but never toppling over. Maybe it’s just the right way to get you started off in the mornings.
The unknown component in product design is likeability. It may be functional, perfectly acceptable and have all the right attributes. But the X factor that eludes is the response people will have to the product. There are hundreds of MP3 players out there in the market – good looking, functional ones. But the iPod succeeded where all the others just had to be content with a market share that went into tiny fractions. For sheer likeability, the Pixar Lamp is hard to beat. It looks like a lamp alright, but at certain angles and the right ‘posture’ it begins to look uncannily human. That’s how the ‘Luxo’ lamp grew to acquire such a following. You know that an icon has truly arrived when it starts getting spoofed.
The chair is a perfect example of reinventing the wheel. We already have lounge chairs, garden chairs, office chairs, love seats and more. But the Herman Miller chair of 2011 is a work of art you can physically experience. You could say that it is excess. Much like the maligned and coveted ‘Vertu‘ range of phones from Nokia. The simple fact is that these products are a form of expression and go far beyond functionality. It’s almost as if the functional part is secondary. But it isn’t just expensive products that encourage this burst of creativity. If you think you have already seen every folding and stackable chair, here are the entries for a recent competition. In form, shape, utility and function, they exhibit the range that the human mind is capable of. Reinventing the wheel is not reworking the cliche. It looks at the mundane and stretches our creative horizon