With the Staples Invention Quest in full swing, I thought it would be a great time to look at some true innovations in the office product world.
Typically, this is an area largely ignored by industrial designers, but these office products and work accessories prove that the market is fertile ground for office products that look good, push the envelope, and make your work life more inspiring. Not surprisingly, the company that built its reputation on cutting-edge office environments bookends the list.
Here's my personal picks for Top Ten Office Products of 2006:
#10 Best Cubicle: Herman Miller My Studio
I know it’s hard to put “best” and “cubicle” in the same sentence, but if you're confined to cube-world, it might as well be in the My Studio line from Herman Miller. With a perfect blend of industrial and organic, of creative and functional, and of “let light in” and “keep people out,” the My Studio line is a beautiful, understated and modern environment. Office product here
#9 Best Use of a Password: Staples Wordlock
The 2004 Invention Quest winner was heavily promoted to back-to-schoolers, but now with a laptop security cable added to the line, this word-based combo lock should be at the top of the list of anybody who locks anything. Todd Basche, the inventor of WordLock, actually wrote the computer algorithm that determined what combination of letter tumblers would result in the most possible word combinations, and for that reason alone you should buy one of these. Office product here.
#8 Best Way to Call From the Car: Hammacher Schlemmer Rearview Mirror Speakerphone
Rearview MirrorHere in Chicago, it's illegal to drive while using your cell phone without a hands-free device, but when you're stuck in Chicago traffic, there's nothing to do but use the phone. Hammacher Schlemmer has come up with a really clever way to use your Bluetooth-enabled phone without one of those Star Trek earpieces. It's a rearview mirror that attaches over the top of your car's mirror, and wireless connects to your cell phone. It has a hands-free voice dialer, an LED read-out of call status, and can even record voice memos. And if you happen to still like those Star Trek earpieces, there's one that can detach from the mirror at any time when you're ready to get beamed up (or talk privately). Office Product here
#7 Best Inexpensive Storage Solution: Snap-n-Store
OK, so it’s hard to get excited about a box, but when you find one that threatens to topple the plastic tub / bankers box monopoly with a good-looking, inexpensive alternative, it’s hard not to snap them up (pun intended) by the caseful. Snap-n-Stores, which come in a variety of useful shapes and sizes, hide conveniently folded out of the way until you need them, at which point you just snap them together and put them to use. With some non-traditional colors (at least for the storage market) and an industrial look, all for the change in your pocket, these are a worthy replacement to those Rubbermaids. Office Product here.
#6 Best Lumbar Support: Anthro Verte Chair
Anthro has a reputation for ergonomically-engineered products, but the award-winning Verte chair takes the cake. It boasts a pedigree of "development for over 10 years by a team of over 100 engineers, designers, doctors and manufacturers" who were undoubtedly inspired by the alien technology in Independence Day, the top film at the box office when they started working on this thing! Its 11 torsion-loaded support springs actually help you improve your posture over time (or so the website claims). For $1,500, it better have a cup holder too! Office product here.
#5 Best iProduct: iLamp
Four-step million-dollar marketing plan for the 21st century: 1) Find an everyday product. 2) Add an iPod dock and speaker set. 3) Put the letter “i” in front of it. 4) Sit back and watch the dollars roll in. Into the already overcrowded iPod accessory market steps the legitimately useful iLamp , which, despite a ridiculous slogan (The Lamp That Rocks!) is a product you could use every day (in a welcomed variety of trendy designs) with the built-in connection for your music player. They claim it works with any MP3 player, but the name tells you what market they’re going after. What’s next…the iCouch? iNapkin? iPhone (we wish!). The iLamp might have been higher up the list if it hadn't been totally out-lamped by our top pick. Office Product here
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