There is something to be said about not “reinventing the wheel,” but how is that mindset affecting innovation? We use countless objects on a daily basis that simply lack ingenuity, but their absence of evolution isn’t given any thought because these objects just…work. Is the fact that left-handed scissors and the spork have been “the next big thing” for quite some time a testament to our lackluster attitude towards the innovation of these items? Maybe. But the design and technology communities have had enough. By utilizing their excellent problem solving skills, they are rethinking how objects (some of which remain relics from the Middle Ages) are being used, and figuring out how to make them better.
Take the cast for example. The method of applying hardening bandages to set broken bones started in the 1800s and hasn’t changed much since. Sometimes doctors will use fiberglass rather than plaster, but their limitations remain relatively the same. If you break a bone, be prepared to treat that limb like a mogwai because you can’t get it wet, it’s itchier than sin, tends to smell and is extremely bulky. It’s almost shocking no one has given this practice much thought! Well, until now, that is. Enter designer Jake Evill, no stranger to the plaster cast. Using the mystical powers of the 3D printer to solve these problems, he created the Cortex Cast – a custom cast that is waterproof, inexpensive, lightweight and breathable. It also looks pretty damn cool.
With a laser scan to measure the dimensions of the break, a computer creates an exoskeleton to provide support where it is needed most. The complex webbing around the fractured area makes each cast unique to the wearer and it just snaps on (no mess). Plus, you can now rock long sleeves like a boss. Jake’s redesign is being shopped around to hospitals all over the world, and with any luck, will be the new method going forward.
While there are many design innovations that go beyond the medical field, the prescription pill bottle is yet another strong example of a product begging for a redesign. The complicated wrapped labeling, coupled with a Chinese food menu of instructions, has remained the same since World War II. Designer Deborah Adler, whose grandparents accidentally mixed their medications, was inspired to revamp the standard drugstore model. With over 60% of prescription drugs being taken incorrectly, she felt there had to be a better way to improve usage an enhance the standard user experience of this item. Six major changes were implemented in the redesign:
1. Color Coding – using color bands to help families who share medicine cabinets differentiate their meds. Green for dad, yellow for mom. The bottle itself was also changed from amber to red to indicate CAUTION.
2. Labeling Hierarchy – visually separating primary and secondary information with a hard horizontal line, one can clearly discern what’s important (name, medication time, amount to be taken, etc.) at a glance.
3. Information Card Holder – instead of stapled instructions to the prescription bag, the bottle itself conveniently has a slot for an information card to keep them on hand with your meds (and preventing you from accidentally throwing them away).
4. Cautionary Messaging and Iconography – new icons were designed to be more clear and obvious. The new label also allows for more room to properly identify what each icon means.
5. Easily to Identify – the name of the medication can be seen at the top of the bottle so it is visible when put into drawers.
6. Bottle Orientation – the upside-down bottle enables pharmacies to save paper by having the label wrap over the top portion and making every label a perfect 8.5×14 perforated sheet.
As I said before, there are many products on the market that designers are starting to rethink, like the senz umbrella that is not only resistant to winds up to 70 mph, but also creates room for your bags or the person next to you (in case you like your personal space). Another example is the one touch faucet, which turns on using the back of your hand or your forearm so you no longer have to fiddle with knobs when your fingers are icky. With the latest smartphone or new wearable tech, we are continually overlooking other items that are constantly being used. Because my iPhone can’t brush my teeth (yet), I’m glad there are people out there paying attention to the little things (that have potential to make a big difference) and trying to enhance everything for the future.
Can you think of any old products that recently got an upgrade or any products that desperately need one? Let us know.