Tag Archives: modern design


  • June 18, 2015

    Inspiring design is as close as the straw in your drink

    bendy straw

    It's kind of weird, I know, but people get excited about using a bendy straw, like it's a treat or something.

    It makes that cool noise when you pull it out. Everything from Sofia Coppola's cans of mini sparkling wine to drive-in milkshakes use the bendy straw. Kids especially like the bendy straw and have been known to play it like a mini accordion at the table.

    The bendy straw (aka the 'flexible straw' or the 'bendable straw') was invented in San Francisco in the 1930s by Joseph B. Friedman. Friedman had been tinkering with inventions since he was a teenager and came up with the idea for a lightened pencil (the 'pencilite') and a version of the fountain pen. All in all, he earned nine U.S. patents.

    The flexible drinking straw was his most famous invention, and also his simplest. One day he was at his brother's soda fountain, the Varsity Sweet Shop, and noticed his young daughter, Judith, struggling to drink a milkshake with a long, rigid paper straw. What he did next exemplifies the beauty of simple design: He went to his workshop, inserted a screw into a straight paper straw, and wrapped dental floss around the outside, imprinting the grooves in the straw.

    Friedman received a patent in 1937 for his then-called Drinking Tube and two years later founded the Flex-Straw Corporation in California. Today, its descendent is the Sweetheart Cup Company.

    It's designs like these, the simple ones, that keep me inspired. There is such a fine line with modernism — how to add just the right amount of design-umph yet still create a beautifully simple design.

    Friedman could have made the entire straw bendy. He didn't. He created just the right amount of bend to get the job done. It's inventions like this that get you thinking about other simple, ubiquitous features of modern life such as the zipper, the paper clip or even the screw Friedman used to make his flexible straw.

    Nowadays, some say plastic straws aren't good for the environment, and reusable bendy straws are out there, but a quick search of plastic straw art projects brings up numerous ideas, like . That way, you can enjoy a drink with your bendy straw and recycle it into a cool, modern-looking accessory.

    As an invention, the Bendy Straw may not have changed the world overnight like the plow or the light bulb, but it did change the way people enjoy sodas and milkshakes every day. It's also a valuable tool in health care settings for people who have trouble sitting up to drink. It's these kind of inspiring moments in time that keep me trying new things. So the next time you drink a beverage with a bendy straw, pause to appreciate it. Just don't spill anything on the furniture :)

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