Every Day Design

I am fascinated by the design of things. Not big things like skyscrapers or complicated things like airplanes. I am intrigued by the simple, mundane, every day objects. The objects that are so simple, mundane, every day that the average person doesn’t even notice that there is a design. In fact, they often misuse the object and miss out on the beauty that went into it.

Take the Trident Layers gum package, for example.


Every design starts with a problem to solve. The problem to solve with gum packaging is how to keep the package from collapsing and messing up the tidy arrangement of gum as pieces are removed from the package.


I like how this package solves that problem. There are two rows of gum. We’ll call them the top row (near the flap) and the bottom row. There is a slot in the backside of the bottom row so you can fold that row into the top row and then secure it closed with the flap. But the whole result could start to get crushable once there’s only a few pieces of gum left.

So notice the slot on the top row. See it? Let me show you:


There’s also a perforation between the top and bottom rows. Once you’ve consumed all the gum on the bottom row, you can tear that part of the packaging off and secure the flap in the top row slot, leaving you with a tightly secure, non-collapsing gum package. Beautiful!

So what’s the problem? Here it is:


The design, elegant as it is, depends on consumers using it properly when they, by and large, don’t notice or care about its elegance. I noticed and as a result, I use the package as designed. My boys, on the other hand, just want a piece of gum.

The design is rendered useless unless the consumer is willing to use it as designed.

And that’s what fascinates me about the design of such things. The gum package isn’t too bad. I can – and will – train my children on the proper extraction method of gum from packages in my purse. Other people selecting their gum improperly does not impact me.

That’s not true for all daily use designs. Some have public impact. One in particular has become a ridiculous obsession of mine for an embarrassingly long time. At great risk to your continued belief in my sanity, I will share my tale of woe tomorrow.