What to do with payphones? Design competition

When I was a kid payphones in NYC were a big part of life. It was how you’d change plans with a friend, make reservations for dinner, or dozens of other small social connections that have collapsed down into our mobile phones.

But the cases and frames for all of these phones still exist, even if the phones themselves do not.


A design competition in NYC has five different designs for the ‘payphone’ of the future. You can vote on your favorite.



nyc-phone2 nyc-phone1

You can vote here.

Choose your own soup: design and food

As anyone who tries to read a bad restaurant website menu knows, menu design in print or on the web is a craft unto itself. The challenges rise if the menu has to be interactive too.

At King Noodle in Seattle the premise is you can be the King (or Queen) of your own soup. When you sit down you’re handed a nicely designed sheet of paper with their array of ingredients listed for you. IMG_5985

While there are complete soups you can order, the spirt of the place is to build a soup yourself. You pick from 5 broths, several different kinds of noodles, and a wide range of other ingredients.


I went for the spicy broth with noodles, wontons, bbq pork, beansprouts and cabbage. I was worried about how well my choices would blend together but those worries were unfounded. The broth was good, balancing all of my choices together, and all of the ingredients tasted fresh (or fresh enough to pass the ‘be in soup’ bar). It was an excellent meal for a cold winter day. IMG_5991

While I talked with friends Chad and Kav as we waited for our food, I mentioned how the menu could encourage customers to experiment. Why not offer recipies to try in the future that were known to be interesting? Something like what Jelly Belly does on the back of their jelly bean packages.



Never Get Lost Hotel Cards

Long ago I learned the travel tip of grabbing a card from the hotel front desk. if you get lost you always have the hotel phone number and address handy. This is extra valuable in foriegn counties. To get hom when lost or drunk, just show a cab driver the card. Without knowing a word of their language, you’ll get safely home.

On a recent trip to China, I discovered a well designed card for all these situations and more at the Bayshore Hotel in Dalian.

One side has basic instructions in Chinese and English.IMG_5971

The other side lists several popular locations in the city. IMG_5970

Extreme design: a 5 foot wide apartment

Completed Project: Poland’s Most Narrow ‘Keret House’ | Inthralld.

Constraints can help creativity. They force you to try things you’d never consider otherwise. This house in Warsaw was designed to fit between a 5 foot cavity between two existing buildings.

Designed by Centrala, it has a private entrance, a workspace, a loft bed, a kitchen bathroom and storage space, all fitting in less than 44 square feet.


poland house 2
poland house 3

poland house 4

poland house 5

This video shows the design and a brief interview with the designer:

More photos and details here.

A better pain chart

Every time I’ve been to the hospital they just ask on a scale from 1 to 10, no visual aids at all. This chart offers a different approach.

Some poking around revealed of course its not real, however you can buy one. It’d make a good joke gift for your favorite doctor or dentist’s office.

better pain chart



Play games while waiting to cross street (Streetpong)

This student project from Germany raises as many design issues as it solves. It keeps you occupied while waiting for the light to change, and also indicates how much time is left. The project was for a course in interactive media.

The good: it likely prevents jaywalking. It’s a thoughtful use of design to fill dead time. It’s interactive.

The bad: the wait isn’t quite long enough to justify it.

Watch the video anyway. There’s some clever thinking here.

How to dial a (rotary) telephone

The irony of this instructional diagram is it would be needed today for anyone who had never seen one before.  The rotary UI reached is primacy in the late 1970s, before push button phones took over. For anyone born today, and never saw it used in a movie, would have a hard time figuring it out.

The problem of course is the diagram fails to explain the most important thing: how to actually dial a number.

The design itself had the curious side effect of making 0’s the most expensive number to dial, as it took the most work and the most time.

(Source: unknown)

Smallest library ever?

Found on facebook: “Today we put up our Little Free Library! I’m excited to get our official registration to add the finishing touch but hope that all the walkers in our neighborhood will like and use it! “