People are often amused at what designers observe as they go through their days. We’re often asked for opinions like, “what vacuum should I buy?”

This blog is a list of design observations throughout a 24-hour period. Have fun guessing what the products are and why we might be curious about them.

Airport (mostly) water dispenser  I think it’s silly we need to empty our water bottles to get on a plane but the water dispensers now in most airports make up for it. Have you ever thought about how well the water shuts off immediately, with no drips, when you remove your bottle from the sensor? I have, and it’s pretty impressive. Designing for liquids or moving parts is exponentially harder than not.

Paper Tear  Any idea what this is? I saw this on a recent trip and thought, ‘duh!’! How long has it taken for the design of toilet paper roll holders to have the blade that tears TP in the correct orientation? This orientation is not linear from front to back; it faces towards you when you sit on the toilet. Well done, Tork.

Press  This one is fabulous! While this product change occurred a decade ago, it is still worth mentioning. This is a machine that likely half of the population will become familiar with: machine that captures mammogram images. These two plates compress the breast with 18psi to ensure a sufficient image is taken. The kicker (well, the ‘smasher’ in this case): these plates used to be metal. Yes folks… metal! Not much different than a waffle iron! Dear carbon composite engineers:  thank you for the warm plastic. And thoughtfulness.

Milk Foamer  It’s all in the details – and Bodum generally impresses me with their attention to product details. This is a milk foamer with a removable spinner for easy cleaning. Not only is it easily removable, but the coil spring that creates the foam retains the spring to the pivot. And – the pivot has magnets for easy, effortless re-assembly. The spinner snaps into place as soon as it is close to the pin. Clever engineering, good performance and attention to consumer use. Bodum wins again.

Faucet  Not only is this faucet plumbed and sealed on the outside, but the entire bathroom was welded sheet metal with a hinge welded into the steel ‘drywall’ for easy toilet access. The faucet lever with ball valve produced an instant response for warm water – no adjustment necessary and no water splashing through a screen filter.  Best bathroom I’ve seen in many years. And really good welds.

If you are an engineer, you likely move through the world with a similar set of eyes. What design elements in everyday products are you impressed with right now?