Why are there so many variations on the design of the plastic coffee lid? How many different kinds have you seen or used? Architect and NYU professor Louise Harpman, with her business partner Scott Specht, have amassed the world’s largest collection of disposable coffee lids. She explains:
We’ve tried to understand what it was that was driving innovation. What problems are the designers trying to solve? Why isn’t there a best lid? Why don’t we have the equivalent of the paper clip?
…One of the things that I think about a lot, and one of the things I try to teach, too, is something called visual literacy… just to open your eyes and look at every single thing around you that’s designed. Somebody designed that. Even if it’s something like a coffee lid, or a paper clip, or the dental floss that you buy. So many of these everyday objects merit further consideration… understanding the design, the manufacturing, and the intelligence that went into these designs.
Also worth considering: The product’s afterlife. Where does it go after it’s been used? How can design decisions support or improve on that?
Related videos: The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can, How design can change our experiences & environments, and Ocean Confetti: The challenge of micro-plastics.
Related reading: While there is one leading paper clip design, there are actually many types of paper clips. Why is the paper clip shaped like it is?
Plus, our favorite: Design Ah! (デザインあ) introduces kids to design concepts.