Who Really Invented The Paper Clip? (Screenshot: YouTube)

The handy, ubiquitous paper clip has not changed much since its (disputed) origins in the 1800s. But as Museum Of Modern Art curator Paola Antonelli points out in an article for The New York Times, there is no design so perfect that it cannot be improved a little. Not even the paper clip. “Redesign,” Antonelli writes, “is a positive and constructive art, one of adaptation (to new technologies, to changing mores, to new legislation, and so on).” In that progressive spirit, the Times contacted six separate design teams to rethink some inventions that are desperately in need of an overhaul. Most people can agree that bike locks suck. So do hospital gowns, baggage returns, cell towers, and those handouts that pharmacies include with prescription drugs. Not even the toilet is unimpeachable. All are given makeovers here. The paper clip is temporarily spared, but Antonelli warns that “it, too, will one day meet a new maker.”

The key, the article points out, is urgency. There has to be a pressing need for a redesign in order for it to be meaningful. Many would welcome an improved version of the traditional bike lock, however, so here it is:

Illustration: Aruliden Agency (Source: The New York Times)


Designed by Aruliden, a New York-based brand strategy and product design firm, this stronger, better bike lock is “sheathed in titanium-ion-plated steel” and contains a GPS chip “for tracking in case of theft.” Impressive.

It was up to French designer Mathieu Lehanneur, meanwhile, to upgrade the toilet. His creation is a sleek cylinder that would stand proud in a contemplative, chapel-like environment.


Illustration: Mathieu Lehanneur (Source: The New York Times)

And what about those flimsy hospital gowns, always exposing the tushes of mortified patients? Womenswear designer Lucy Jones took a crack at this one, so to speak, and came up with a comfy-looking, gender-neutral design “meant to feel like an oversize T-shirt.”


Illustration: Lucy Jones (Source: The New York Times)

All the redesigns can be seen here.