When I was trying to write the conclusion for the A/C hack entry I couldn’t think of any specific examples of design improvements that came about through pure iteration, rather than an a break through in technology. I found two on my last business trip that illustrate the concept nicely.
The first is the integrated automobile key with remote. I think BMW and Mercedes have been doing this for several years now. Most new cars today that include remote locks use this approach. The key pictured here is for a Ford Fusion. At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, it really bothers me to have too many items in my pocket. I keep the least amount of keys that I practically can on my key chain. Combining the remote and the key saves at least 30% of the space taken by separate components. I suppose that many more cars today use a remote system than did even five years ago, but there aren’t many other reasons why remotes could not have included the key since the day they were first introduced.
An even stronger example of a simple change that makes a big difference is the curved shower rod. By curving the rod outward from the tub, much more usable space is provided when the curtain is drawn closed. Models available today provide additional elbow room from six inches to an entire extra foot. If you’ve used a shower with a curved rod you know how much of a difference that extra space makes. I first came across a shower like this in a Westin hotel a few years ago, but just about every hotel I have stayed in the last year uses one now.
So, both of these design innovations are relatively new; they’re just now becoming common in the market. Why did it take so long to realize that such a simple change could make such a useful difference? How many other products or applications that we use every day could be more useful with just a simple tweak or change?