Pushing the envelope

Sometimes a design will arrive for an everyday item that’s so blindingly obvious yet revolutionary you have to wonder why nobody did it before.

Such a design is the folding plug, designed by Min-kyu Choi.

Taking inspiration from the Apple Macbook Air, which is advertised as being the ‘world’s thinnest laptop’, Min-kyu found irony in the fact that this wonder of modern design was saddled with the rather archaic and clunky UK three-pin plug:

Picture of Macbook Air and folding plug in an envelope

In a breathtakingly simple but inspired design, Min-kyu has created a clever folding plug which occupies under 1/3 of the space of a conventional UK plug.  Thinner than your little finger when folded, this beautiful bit of design refactoring takes plug design forward in leaps and bounds:

Picture of folding plugs

As software designers, we should be actively seeking out the ‘chunky plugs’ in our world – awkward, unfriendly, approaches to interaction that have somehow become the ‘norm’.  These are the things that people put up with despite their shortcomings.  If we put the effort in, we shall and will find them.  We may even be able to come up with something significantly better.

Min-kyu deserves great credit and recognition for making such an improvement to an everyday object.  I hope that you can find your own ‘chunky plug’ and make your own mark.  After all, that’s the essence of good design – improving our everyday lives.


About John Clark

My name is John Clark and I previously ran a software house called Reynard Thomson, from which this blog originally grew. In the meantime, we launched a video-based user testing service (Kupima) which didn't really take off, and I have since moved into a new field specialising on software-based research & development consultancy. I'm active on LinkedIn, and would love to connect to anyone who has an interest in software prototyping or R&D: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jtclarkuk/
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One Response to Pushing the envelope

  1. Interesting take on the good old British plug, but I’d be amazed if this took off in any meaningful way.

    The British plug is a very clever design that addresses several important issues. Safety is the biggest. Another is durability, and this plug looks like it might end up suffering from reliability issues after repeated plugging/unplugging/abuse in a laptop bag. Not only that, but a damaged plug, especially one with live pins on a rotating arm will probably introduce serious safety issues as it starts to wear. I also can’t tell from his diagrammes how the three lines are routed through the handle and down in to the rotating arm.

    But top marks to this designer for looking for innovative ways to improve on an established design. If nobody challenges the accepted norm, nothing ever improves. I especially like the multi-adapter idea (shown on the linked page), where three of these slim plugs are plugged, side-by-side, in to one socket.

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