Dog-Powered Scooter...

The Dog-Powered Scooter. Hmm... let's just look at paired-up pros and cons, shall we?

PRO: Your dog gets some excercise.
CON: You don't, lazy bones.

PRO: With a job serving his master, your dog feels useful.
CON: Enslaving your dog for your convenience, you feel guilty.

PRO: You get outside the house!
CON: You look ridiculous.

CON: Nope, your face will be hitting the pavement soon.

Judgment is an exercise left to the reader...
[via Gizmodo & Neatorama]

Projected Bike Lane - Don't leave home (on a bike) without it...

While "sharing the road" is a fine ideal for which to strive, the reality in the meantime is that cyclists need every trick they can find to make sure car drivers see them. To that end, there are any number of blinking, moving, bright, eye-catching bike lights - and here's one more with a neat twist. The Light Lane, from Altitude's Alex Tee and Evan Gant, uses lasers to project a bike lane around the biker - complete with the standard "Bike Lane" symbol. While this improvised lane certainly doesn't qualify as legally binding, it probably will get any car driver's attention just for being unique and eye-catching - and that's the whole point. Stay safe, kids!
[via Gizmodo, DVice, Good, & TheDailyWhat]

Tune Blocker - Just the charge, please...

The Matias Tune Blocker is pretty simple: it's a USB cable for your iPod or iPhone which allows you, with the flip of a switch, to cut the data connection while keeping the power connection. Cutting the data means that plugging in your iPod will still charge the device, but won't start up iTunes, or cause a computer without iTunes to recognize a whole new device and waste time trying to set it up. A good functional idea, but at 25 bucks, a little costly (not to mention a little ugly). I'd like to see some variations on the concept: a small-as-can-be dongle to fit on any USB connector which disables the data connection, maybe? Or a switch built in right next to a USB port (probably only one of'em) on the computer to turn off the data? Enough devices charge via USB these days that it only makes sense. Other upcoming features are taking this trend into account too! It's the kind of standardization that can make everything a lot easier to use...
[via PC World and Lifehacker]

Tea Bag Coffin - Stash your trash with class...

An elegant solution to a real issue: where does the tea bag go when its job is done? On the saucer next to the cup isn't the ideal place, if only because it's a wet, brown eyesore. And anywhere else would seem to require the would-be drinker to take leave from his tea, to deposit the used bag in some faraway receptable. Design student Jonas Trampedach came up with this solution, which clevelry and attractively hides the teabag under the cup. The shape of the cutout communicates its function so clearly that no instructions are necessary - and the whole design just "feels right." Turns out, functional designs can be attractive and vice versa!
[via Uselog and SwissMiss]

Reuse Old Calendars - Extreme recycling!

For the truly dedicated recycler, here's a little something crazy: old calendars from specific years can be reused decades later, when the days and dates match up again. has a page that calculates which old (and future) calendars will work for any given year. Just beware, as they point out, "holidays will not match exactly" - or in the case of some such as MLK day, won't even exist! It may take a lot of patience to wait decades to reuse a product - but for those seeking recycling nirvana, it just may be worth it.
[via Lifehacker & WiseBread]

Explanation Sling - Tells your story for you...

Anyone with a broken limb and a cast must get a bit tired of telling their story over and over again, so here's something to ease the pain: slings with any number of illustrations that tell the story for you. (They also might help in making up a better story than what really happened!) What's interesting to me is that these slings might end up working in two opposite ways: eliminating the need for an explanation, or begging further explanation. And it probably depends on which explanation you're wearing! Almost enough to make you want to break your arm? Nah, but still pretty cool.
[via Gizmodo]

Variable Speed Bumps - More motivation to take it slow...

Speed bumps are already designed to have more of an impact on your ride the faster it's going, but this concept from Jae-yun Kim and Jong-Su Lee makes the difference a little more dramatic. These speed bumps would include a mechanism which allows them to be flattened if the car is traveling slowly enough, but keeps them rigid if it's going too fast. The mechanism itself would take some work, but at least it's plausible; and the amplified effect of keeping your speed down would be a good extra motiviation around playgrounds and schools. Good stuff!
[via Gizmodo]

Bookmark Lamp - Bedside reading companion...

From Fulgoro comes this concept for a bedside-table accessory that serves as a dual-purpose reading companion: the lamp illuminates your reading, and the arm acts as a bookmark. It's easy to appreciate the simplicity of both the form and the function of this concept - it's the bare minimum, but you can tell it gets the job done. Now if it could save my place when I fall asleep reading, it'd be even better!
[via Gizmodo, DesignBoom, LikeCool, and Coolest Gadgets]

PizzaPhone - Eliminate one step for $177...

When picking up the phone and then pressing an autodial number just isn't fast enough, there's the PizzaPhone. That's right, for 177 wasted dollars, you can eliminate the tedious step pressing of a button (an "unpressable button?"), and have the phone dial your favorite pizza joint as soon as you lift it from the hook. Yikes. I can understand a red-phone hotline between the heads of state of nuclear world powers, but to get a quick delivery? Even the kitsch value of this thing is offset by the gawd-awful lettering and flat-out embarrassing price tag. It's too bad the folks at Domino's don't have a matching red phone on which to receive the call, to instill them with the appropriate sense of urgency...
[via Gizmodo and cool Buzz]

Screwdriver Screw Guide - Lowering the barrier to home repairs...

This is the Black & Decker LI4000 drill/screwdriver, featuring a new little appendage which holds the screw right in place for drilling. And I'm betting that everyone who sees this will have one of two reactions: (1) "Pfft, what a useless waste of plastic, I can hold my own screws, thank you very much," or (2) "Thank GOD, that looks like a tool I could actually use!" And ya know what? "Handy" folks who might be tempted to think #1 should give the #2's a break. Anything which lowers the barrier to do-it-yourself home repairs and improvements should be encouraged, in my opinion, and if this helps then more power to it! Thanks, Black & Decker, for employing good product design to help more people overcome a fear of power tools to become more self-sufficient.
[via Gizmodo, CraziestGadgets, and CoolestGadgets]

Ecofont - Same text, less ink...

That text in the image is a typeface called Ecofont, so named because it conserves ink by not printing the tiny white circles you can see inside the letters. According to the designers, printing with this font consumes up to 20% less ink than normal fonts. And since this is done by smartly removing the "inner" areas of the letters, the text remains just as readable - not like other ink-saving methods such as "graying" the text, or using thinner-line font. Since conservation so often requires sacrifice of convenience or usability, it's good to see a design that doesn't!
[via Lifehacker]

Frustration-Free Packaging - Good riddance, clamshells!

One of the all-around best initiatives I've seen in the last few months has been pioneered by online retailer, who calls it "Frustration-Free Packaging." (Also, see the letter from the CEO on the subject.) They realized that most product packaging is designed to (1) show off the product in a glossy, eye-catching way, and (2) prevent theft. However, these priorities result in packaging which is wasteful and (by necessity for theft-prevention) extremely difficult to open. And since Amazon doesn't have a physical store, they don't need either eye-catching or theft-preventing packaging! Their redesigned packaging (see the comparison in the photo) prioritizes easy opening and less waste - resulting in a much, much, much better user experience. Since Amazon started the trend, there are reports that Sony, Microsoft, and Best Buy are joining the party. Let's hope it's only the start of something huge!

Happy 2009 - Unpressable Buttons is back!

That's right, it's been a while, but Unpressable Buttons is back! It's been taking a back seat to "real" work lately, and hey, it happens. But in the meantime some great examples of good and bad usability design have been piling up, and 2009 is the time to show'em off! Look for the first few posts next week - and I'll try to keep a 3-post-per-week thing going. A new year's resolution, of sorts.* Welcome back, happy new year, and happy reading!

*No, calling this a resolution does NOT automatically doom it to failure...