When the British plug was introduced in 1946 it did not have great ambitions. It did not expect to travel the world, buried in laptop bags, forming awkward acquaintances with travel adapters. When burdened with a jet-setter lifestyle it fought back; peevishly shredding important documents, scarring laptops, and generally making itself a bulky, disagreeable yet indispensable travel companion. But after 50 years of dogged service, finally the old-fashioned plug could be heading for a revamp. The astonishingly simple "Folding Plug" design from British student Min-Kyu Choi, just won product design category of the prestigious Brit Insurance Designs Awards.
The space-saving design is deceptive in its simplicity. When collapsed the three-prongs lie in succession; the top-most pin stays static, while the middle and bottom pins twist 90 degrees into their lower position forming the standard triangle. Flaps tucked back against the main body of the plug flick out to form the back, and the expanded unit protrudes only 1cm compared to a standard 4.5cm UK plug.
Additionally, Mr Choi has designed a "USB Charger" and an adapter, the "Multi Flat Plug" which allows three foldaway plugs to fit one standard socket, whilst still taking up barely more room than a standard UK plug. He has plans to release these and other complementary products later in 2010 via his site Made in Mind, and further plans to release other country-specific variants in the future.
Mr Choi, 29, from Bayswater, London, was moved to inspiration when he bought a new MacBook Air, the world's slimmest laptop, but was frustrated when the world's largest plug proved awkward to carry and scratched his new purchase. He designed the product to meet our most common travel appliance needs: mobile power for laptops, digital cameras, mobile phones and mp3 players, whilst remaining slim enough to fit in a laptop bag.
The Brit Insurance Design of the Year Award is an international competition honoring design excellence in products, ecodesign, interaction design, packaging, strategy, research and concepts, and was judged this year by a panel including sculptor Anthony Gormley, and journalist Janet Street Porter. Additionally the "Folding Plug" was awarded gold in the International Design Excellence Awards, and was also a finalist in the distinguished Wallpaper Design Awards.
"‘The folding plug shows how intelligent, elegant and inventive design can make a difference to everyone's life," said Gormley.
Gregory Schultz of Design Inc. remarked the plug was “an elegant solution to a timeless problem. In this case less IS more”