LIST: 60+ well designed everyday things that go unnoticed

With the new book coming out, I’m running a little contest on Twitter. Best three answers get a signed copy of How Design Makes The World.

The question: what well designed common object goes unnoticed because it works so well?

The premise: We forget that what we do everyday depends on countless inventions, discoveries, designs and systems. Just to flick on a light switch requires centuries of work and effort on the part of people we never even think about. It’s powerful to take a moment to look thoughtfully at the designs around us. There are inspirations and stories waiting for rediscovery.

UPDATE: Winners have been chosen. I chose: the key, the alphabet and the mirror.

Even if you miss the deadline I’d still love to hear what comes to mind for you.

Here’s the list so far:

  1. The simple toaster oven
  2. Japanese nail clipper
  3. The pencil
  4. The clockface
  5. Yellow dotted line in middle of roads
  6. On road reflectors / Cat’s eye
  7. Bathroom entrances without doors
  8. Mythical bathroom where you don’t touch anything?
  9. Aglets (tips of shoelaces)
  10. Scotch Tape roll holder
  11. Paper Clip
  12. Phillips screw and screwdriver
  13. Cigarette Boxes
  14. Chapstick
  15. Running water
  16. Safety Pin
  17. Hinges
  18. Alphabet
  19. Light switches
  20. Corkscrew
  21. Book
  22. Peeler
  23. Concrete
  24. Toilet Paper
  25. Bidet
  26. Spoon
  27. Stairs
  28. The Metric system
  29. Glass
  30. Handicapped symbols
  31. Chopsticks
  32. Mirrors
  33. Keys / Lock & Key
  34. Hammer
  35. Clothes buttons
  36. Bicycle
  37. Tire pressure valves
  38. Toothpick
  39. Mattress
  40. Glasses
  41. Scarf
  42. Single level mixer (a faucet that controls both temp and water pressure)
  43. Escalator
  44. Waste disposal / recycling
  45. Elevators
  46. Safety Matches
  47. Dog door
  48. Differential gears
  49. Traffic signs
  50. Curb cuts
  51. The dial
  52. The smell added to natural gas
  53. Windshield wippers
  54. Soda can tabs
  55. A mug
  56. Ballpoint pen
  57. Light bulb
  58. Decimal number system
  59. Zipper
  60. Cardboard

Have an interesting one I should consider? Leave a comment.

8 Responses to “LIST: 60+ well designed everyday things that go unnoticed”

    1. Scott Berkun

      Good catch – I missed it. Twitter doesn’t make it easy to see all the replies.

  1. Sean Crawford

    Historians don’t know how Roman armour was fastened on, as pictures only show the outside. I thought it was an inside historian joke when in the movie Aliens, as they are gearing up, the camera shows…

    a plastic buckle that goes click.

  2. Gautam Bajekal

    Big Job and Small Job Flush buttons. The impact is so huge. Gazillions of gallons of water saved.


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