Musings on Design, Entrepreneurship, and the Creative Economy

Steal This Idea


Redesigning an Elevator’s UI


About six months ago I moved out of my suburban house and into an apartment in a 35 story building in downtown Dallas. This of course necessitated the use of an elevator 5-6 times a day to walk the dog, go to lunch, meetings, etc. Any time I need to go anywhere, the trip starts with an elevator. It’s a typical elevator, lots of round buttons for the floors, buttons for opening and closing the door, etc. It’s pretty much just like every other elevator I’ve ever used, but something about using it all the time has made me realize how poorly designed elevators are in terms of interface, particularly this one.

Steal This Idea: Auto-Temperature Coffee Mug


Several years ago, my wife and I stopped by Starbucks on our way to church, and got our respective beverages in our own insulated mugs (I’m not a coffee drinker, so I just get hot chocolate). As often happens at Starbucks, the drink I received was much too hot to drink. Because I had it in an insulated mug, it stayed at that temperature for a long time. In fact, 20 minutes later when we arrived at church, it was still too hot, and I ended up leaving it in the car and not drinking any of it.

So all through church I’m thinking about how to solve this problem, and what occurred to me is that what I need is a selectively insulated mug – a mug where the insulation can be broken to allow heat to escape, and then reestablish the insulation to hold it at that preferred temperature. What I envisioned were a series of metal ‘tabs’ inside the insulation layer that would expand when heated, and could be calibrated to connect with the metal exterior of the mug at n degrees, and then contract away from the outside when the temperature drops below n degrees. I sketched what that might look like …