Fast Company has a list of 12 of the Year’s Best Ideas in Interface Design. Two neat items there:
Master Lock’s Speed Dial combination lock reinvents an object that’s remained static for decades. It opens on up/down/left/right directional movements which are more intuitive than numbers or alpha-numeric code and easier for folks who are elderly or have disabilities.
In “How Do You Reinvent Something as Common as the Padlock?”, Lea Plato, lead designer of the lock, explains the design process.
Electronics in general hint a lot at directional movement. We use that kind of movement all the time in all different things, whether it’s volume control or play and fast forward. Even way back, the VCR used directional symbols to show what you wanted to do. I think being around technology everywhere—and it hinting at directional movement—played a part in the actual function of the lock. You just remember directional movement more easily. It’s more intuitive than numbers or alpha-numeric code.
John’s Phone is a great example of underdoing the competition. It’s a cell phone that makes and accepts calls. That’s it. The phone even includes a store-it-inside-the-phone paper pad and pen for jotting down numbers.
Obviously it’s a poor fit for most folks, but it carves out a nice little niche for people who just want a phone that gets out of the way. Plus, it seems great for toddlers in a “My First Phone” kinda way. More details at Fast Company.