Although this post is not about Innovation Culture, it is about innovation and design. I am a blogger for Fast Company Design, and an editor recently asked me to write about how design can make travel less painful, for a feature series they are working on. I’ve been traveling over 100,000 miles a year for nearly a decade, and have some thoughts about this. For example, here are 7 Ideas for Improving Carry-On Luggage, which just ran on the FastCo Design website.
1. Bigger wheels. Maneuvering over curbs, stairs, subway grates, cobblestone sidewalks, puddles and snow is always a challenge, but bigger wheels would help a lot. What’s with the tiny wheels and low ground clearance anyhow?
2. Built-in phone charger. Since few airports or train stations have adequate electrical access, why not generate electricity from those big wheels spinning while you’re walking? Just like a 1950s Russian flashlight with a squeeze grip hand-generator, can’t we capture enough energy from those big wheels while walking to the gate to charge a cell phone? USB port on the top please.
3. Security. Arrive late? Can’t find a cab or the hotel? Not to worry, a little button for a built-in alarm or siren would be comforting to have in case you wander into the wrong neighborhood, like I have.
4. More security. Add an RFID tag, so if the bellman misplaces it or a cabbie runs off with it, your luggage can be easily tracked and located. And some night reflection tape would be helpful, too.
5. Versatility. The main compartment on most soft luggage expands, but I’d like to have some extra pockets on the outside that pop out to add additional external capacity. These could zip closed for the plane or train, and then expand open outward significantly to hold a coat, hat & gloves, briefcase, cosmetic case or tote, camera gear, and other things you need access to on the run. Why not let the luggage carry the extras?
6. More versatility. An interior sleeve pocket for an umbrella would be lovely. I don’t typically carry an umbrella on the airplane, but many times I’ve arrived somewhere and walked outside, only to find it raining. I’ve then had to stop, open my suitcase on the sidewalk, and hunt for the umbrella I hope I packed. I’d also like to have a pop-out upper side pocket for a water bottle and other gadgets.
7. Cup holder. Now that you’ve arrived safely, how about that double latte? But wait, it’s almost impossible to hold a hot cafe, a pack or briefcase, drag the luggage, and open a door at the same time. I’d recommend a pop-up cup holder on the top of my roll-aboard, with a little swivel on it to hold my cup upright. Oh, by the way, I’d also like waterproof fabric and zippers throughout.
Travel will still be challenging, but these little design details would make roll-aboard luggage much handier – a better user experience, in fact. And maybe we could enjoy traveling a bit more.