Innovation – Improving Annoying Things


Does the wire from the iPod or iPhone annoy you? Well, you are not alone.

Many everyday things are a little bit annoying. Just annoying enough to make us complain. But often not enough to make us engage in some serious thinking about how to overcome or solve the problem. This is a missed opportunity. We could make an improvement of an existing innovation. It is also a fun thinking exercise. . . real problems are attractive as well as tempting to solve.

Braden Kelley approached the problem with annoying wires by engaging in some thinking with his 8-year-old daughter. To solve a problem, you have to use a wide range of thinking tools and techniques. Often the process is not straightforward and different steps do not follow each other in a logical manner.  Instead ideas and insights might appear in what looks like a random manner. Nevertheless, some steps can be identified as vital components when solving problems.

Braden Kelley and his daughter made a description of the problem and engaged in some visualisation to imagine the perfect wire.

Problems with existing design:

  • Wire get caught in things
  • Ugly
  • Obvious to other people that you are listening to music
  • Nowhere to put the iPod or iPhone

Based upon the problems a description of the optimal solution could be made:

  • The new wire needs to be tangle-free.
  • Fashionable or discreet design
  • Design a pouch where the iPod or iPad can be carried

My Daughters Drawing

Creating an image of the ultimate wire and pouch helps to make sense of the problem and it helps us to plan ahead. Sometimes we visualise to explore “what will happen if we were wearing the perfect wire?” Taking a couple of minutes to close your eyes and imagining yourself sitting in a classroom wearing the wires without the teacher noticing, or in the office without the boss suspecting anything. Try to imagine every detail, even how the wire and pouch feels.

Visualisation of the perfect wire

  • Invisible
  • Looks like something else
  • Can change the appearance

Drawing or sketching the dream wire and pouch helps to make the visualisation more concrete.

Searching for solutions to the problem involved

  • Checking for existing solutions – below is a picture of one (Pod à porter)


  • Exploring different options to make a discreet or invisible design
  • Exploring ways to allow the user to change the appearance
  • What ways can you change the appearance?
  • Drawing and sketching was used to examine different designs and patterns.

After this, a search for groups that might benefit from the design apart from iPod and iPhone users were carried out.

  • Design works with any mp3 player or smartphone.
  • Maximise the number of people using the new design – provide people with choices can either be worn under your clothing or over it as a fashion accessory
  • Attractive design – different patterns on the carrying pouch, choice of different beads or metals over the headphone wire necklace.
  • Can choose a discreet design.

There were problems with making an invisible wire. And a search for ways to overcome this problem was carried out.

  • Can we change the design to make it invisible to some groups?
  • What groups benefit from the design?
  • What characteristics would be required for a user to benefit from the design.

Solution – some users have long hair – headphones invisible on people with long hair when they are wearing pouch under clothes. Hopefully the 8-year old girl is happy with the design. . .

Yup, Its All Made Up! from Quirky on Vimeo.

Photo: “Pocket Music” by dan

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