Being one for liking to write a lot – the design of the ball point pen was an obvious choice to review.
Ball point pens took writing instruments out of inkwells and safely into pockets.
When faced with the risk of a fountain pen spewing forward it’s contents onto a document or into a shirt pocket – there certainly was a requirement for a new idea. A better idea. An idea that would change the way we wrote forever.
Thus came the ball point pen, accredited to a newspaper editor called László Bíró, and his brother György, a chemist. His innovative approach dealt not only with the issues of smudged writings and the endless refilling of ink – it addressed the need for speed and convenience.
Whilst the design of the outer casing was no great big deal, it was his understanding of the need for quick-drying ink and the ability to use it anywhere (with the exceptions of under water) that made his design the one that would succeed where many prior attempts failed.
Birome advertisement in Argentine magazine Leoplán, 1945.
Advertised features of this new design:
•New writing tool
•Automatic and writes with ink
•Write with spherical tip.
•Allows many carbon copies.
•Unque for aviation.
The biro by it’s very essence was useful. You could now write anywhere! Limitations such as atmospheric pressure (as noted by the U.S. Air force and the RAF ) were no longer an issue. The combination of the newly-developed ink coupled with a simple tubular design made it a household item within a short space of time.
Nowadays, even with the readily-available smart screen devices and mobile phones, the pen is still very much needed. Afterall, how else can we sign legal documents, write a birthday card or simply scribble down a note to a loved one.
Biro’s by their very nature are not designed generally to be aesthetically beautiful. The beauty is in their simplicity of design.
That said, since it’s inception, there has been an endless deluge of creative ideas based around the ordinary ball point.
A pen has become somewhat of a personal-taste item. For some it is simply a necessary item in their desk, for others it’s an extension of their personality.
Regular functional pens
Biro The first ball point pen
The design of the biro was as simple as could be. Pick it up and write!
No longer had users the worry of spilling ink whilst filling inkwells in their fountain pens. This was a pen that was always ready for use.
Standard components include the freely-rotating ball point itself (distributing the ink), a socket holding the ball in place, and a self-contained ink reservoir supplying ink to the ball
Whether we write with a 50c run-of-the-mill pen or a gilt edge Faberge pen, the end result is the same. We are enabled to write in ink.
The user’s self-expression is by no means curtailed as this product’s inner workings have come to be housed in thousands of creative designs. Whether it’s a pineapple, a jewel-encrusted shell or a simple Bic – we get a product that works and does what it says.
A pen is a pen is a pen etc. It writes. It makes no claims that it will bring world peace nor that it will enable the write to become a world-renowned scribe .
The owner has no further expectations of this item other than it will indeed it write. The only understood constraint is that at some point in its life – the ink will run out. Whilst the use of a cheaper model has a shorter lifespan, I don’t believe the design concept is anywhere near being antiquated.
Due to the simplicity of the design, there is pretty much no room for error when using a pen. As with all items there may be the occasional mishap that involves ink leaking but it’s a very small risk. Overall it’s design lends itself to being tough enough to endure the hardship of rattling around in a pencil case or the bottom of a handbag.
In truth, most everyday pens are not designed to be environmentally friendly. The very nature of an average pen suggests that at some point in its life it will be retired to a receptacle that will be emptied into a landfill somewhere.
The only saving grace with a more expensive pen is that it will be most likely made from a recyclable material and that it will also offer the user a chance to replace the ink reservoir.
As little design as possible:
A pen by it’s very nature is simple. A cylindrical-designed shaft, a roller ball, and an ink reservoir. Everything else is added for aesthetic purposes. Personal choice drives the need to deviate from the original humble design.