Rethinking products, services, and systems is our bread and butter. And when you spend your days asking, “how might we change this?” radically reframing the way you see the world becomes an occupational hazard. Designers end up sitting back, scratching their chins, and assessing the utility—or uselessness—of everything, with an eye to making it better. From the immigration process to the razor, we’ve come up with a list of 19 things we’d love to redesign, if we only had the chance.
There should be an AI bot for navigating the immigration process. If they can do it with TurboTax, they can do it with immigration (and I suspect there may even be fewer edge cases). It’s also easy to make something like that multilingual, which would be key. Right now, my friends in New York are paying $300-400 for an hour of immigration consultation. —Alex Staudt
I would like to redesign the cost of products and services to include environmental cost. This would allow consumers to factor in environmental impact as they make purchasing decisions. Currently, it is hard, if not impossible for consumers to understand the environmental impact of their lifestyles, which I believe is largely due to a lack of transparency on the corporate side, not a lack of interest on the consumer side. —Santiago Seira
I’d redesign the electrical outlet—a standard for a century past—with a 'data as a utility' mindset. TV and radio have gone digital, voice is going digital, but power is still analog. —Ryan Osero
Shaving! It's the biggest waste of time. —David Haygood
How We Entertain Ourselves
I’d want to redesign live entertainment. Like, all of it. But here is where I’d start: There’s a gap between spending 2.5 hours seeing a play on Broadway and spending a full day immersed in the world of Disneyland. I love both of these experiences, but theater is dying (it’s basically only older populations who go, so the majority of current patrons will be dead in 30ish years) and shows (with the exception of Hamilton) aren’t being designed with an eye towards new demographics.
Disneyland and large-scale theme park experiences are resource-intensive, and I can’t imagine that too many new entertainment experiences on that scale will be created. But, at its core, Disneyland is a fully-designed, alternate reality that guests can immerse themselves in however they’d like for as long as they’re in the park. There’s freedom and choice in this experience that theater doesn’t often provide (hence the appeal and success of Sleep No More). How might we create a flexible yet fully immersive live entertainment experience? —Andrew Evans
The Menu at National Parks
I want to redesign the food served at our national parks so it reflects their mission of preserving the majesty of this nation, its wild places and wildlife, and the happiness and health it brings to humans. —Vivian Barad
Access to the Outdoors
I’d also piggyback on national parks, in particular on access. Camping and outdoor pursuits should be a right for all, and encouraged, if we want to see people care for the Earth. It doesn’t matter your background or mobility level, we should have everybody get into nature, while maintaining a balance to prevent overuse. Our bay-tech-privilege has managed to infiltrate even the basic purity of camping. —Tim Opsahl
I want to redesign the business model of the Olympic Games. What if the games were spread across multiple countries, instead of just one? What if each Olympics pursued an expressed goal of improving some aspect of the host country (i.e. child malnutrition, urban poverty, etc.)? —Rachel Tobias
Ever since I went to design school, I’ve wanted to redesign bed pans. I know this sounds super weird, but I had an extended hospital stay during my time at university, and found that the bedpan is the single most humiliating object on the planet. Obviously, my redesign wouldn't only include the object itself, but also the experience of what it means to not be able to go to the bathroom on your own and the experience of having to assist someone in this very intimate moment. —Annette Diefenthaler
Whenever I walk by my local laundromat, I wonder what IDEO could do to make it better. Laundromats are relatively rare public shared-use spaces (similar to bath houses and communal bakeries in the Middle East and northern Africa). They provide a crucial service, especially for low income folks—a group that sometimes doesn’t get the same level of design consideration. What if they focused on some of the benefits of shared-use space, such as relaxing (you have time to read, call family and friends, play video games, etc. while you wait for your load to finish) and building community (you can meet neighbors, read about local events, catch up on the news, etc.)? —Biz Wells
F—ing remote controls, man. —Peter Olson
I want to see us redesign the U.S. police-citizen interaction experience during arrests, traffic stops, and inquiries to help both the police and citizens feel safe and prevent wrongful deaths and excessive use of force, particularly against citizens of color. Maybe it's helping police organizations realign with their purpose to protect people and address any biases they may have developed. Or maybe it's an opportunity for a protective product to help police feel more secure in potentially threatening situations and therefore prevent them from using fatal measures for what they feel is self defense. Or maybe it's restorative community building between populations and the services that protect them in order to understand and break down historical tensions. I think it would be world-changing work. —Hannah Williams
I'd like to redesign gym equipment to make it more accessible to women. I'm freakin' tired of using equipment sized for men. —Jennifer Maer
I dropped my iPhone and the screen cracked. The Genius Bar fixed it in 30 minutes for $140. I asked the guy how many screens had he personally replaced and he said more than 1,000. Apple really is genius to convince us to pay that for a phone falling three feet; imagine dropping your wallet and it breaking! —Brendan Boyle
Life With a Newborn
The first year of motherhood. It’s crazy, hard, and you can feel alone and unsure that you're doing the right thing. And as a working mom, it feels like time is NOT on your side. —Melanie Bell-Mayeda
I would love to redesign the domestic adoption process in the U.S. I hesitate to mention it because I’m not sure my heart or my patience for bureaucracy could take it. (I know, that’s all the more reason to go for it.) —Denise Burchell
Can we redesign public discourse in the U.S.? We are divided as a nation and it’s not going to get better on its own. What can we agree on, and how might we we use our common understanding to resist the temptation to demonize one another? —Murphy MacDonald
I want to redesign the San Francisco 911 call center system. This story is all about how money isn’t solving the response time problem for 911 calls in S.F.; the issue is with training dispatchers and their quality of life at work. This seems possible to tackle from a human-centered perspective, since it’s a well-funded city system that pays its employees above average salaries. —Kim Powers
Misogyny at Work
Culture at Fox News. The organization has famously had huge problems with its treatment of women—even Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes aside. It’s clear that something needs to change and that it needs to be more than their recently announced policy allowing women to wear pants (not just short skirts) on the air. How might we help Fox uncover and adapt to who they want to become? —Joe Brown
Editor, IDEO Blog
Elise Craig is editor at large for the IDEO blog. She has written for Wired, Marie Claire, and the New York Times magazine, and loves stories about ordinary people doing interesting things.
Hang enjoys putting a smile on faces through design. She uses visuals to inspire, clarify and storytell. In her spare time, she scuba dives and doodles.