Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Paperclip is Nominated for the People's Design Award

My cousin sent me this interesting link today: Based purely on anecdotal evidence gathered at the baggage carousel, we feel pretty safe in saying that 90% of air passengers now travel with a wheelie suitcase. We feel even more secure asserting that most humans over the age of eight are familiar with the rounded contours of the paper clip. These objects are world famous, yes. But are they great design? Somebody thinks so—and has nominated them for the first-ever People's Design Award from the tasteful folks at Cooper-Hewitt. Though the museum has long hosted the National Design Awards, this is its first stab at a contest where items are submitted and voted on by we, the people. The polls are now open. So wander through and mark your ballot for objects as disparate as the Band-Aid, post-Katrina cottages, a baby stroller, or the Stratocaster. Then tune in on October 18 to see which one takes the trophy for the people's favorite.

True enough, the simple, comfy paperclip is nominated for the People's Design Award and here are some reasons why (and my own purple thought bubbles in parentheses).
  • Probably did more than any other single item to create the modern western office culture.(Definitely more, or at least sooner, than Post-Its!)
  • Its function cannot be improved by any design change. It cannot be completely replaced. (Exactly! Bull clips and staples don't come close!)
  • So far, it hasn't been replaced, changed or updated in any essential, structural way. I think that says enough about the ingenuity of its design. It is a great example for all structural designers out there that there is no need for excess; less is really so much more sometimes. (Simplify, simplify, simplify.)
  • Functional, accessible to all users, aesthetically pleasing to look at. What more could you want from any design? (They look even better with bright purple spots!)
  • One day my two friends were asking each other the difference between design and architecture. The simple answer being "time" - a building naturally has more time on its hand than a product. But with safety pins, paperclips and zippers, I would have to say that they are here for good. Maybe. (I think paperclips will live forever.)
  • Timeless. Unmistakable purpose. God is a paperclip. (Umm, I wouldn't go that far...)
  • Elegant yet simple. Essential. A design that makes you think, "Why didn't I think of that?" and yet you didn't. So universal that it has become invisible. (Hopefully my story will get people to take notice of this amazing invention in a new way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across this blog, and am warmed to know you were hearing what I said so accurately and deeply on that day we shared. (And yes, I really did like your paperclip book.) I hope we meet again. Do go to my website ( and click on "2006 Trip to Asia) to see some photos from that day, and find out what happened to me afterwards!
Alice McLerran