Everyone’s familiar with these ballpoint pens. But very few people have ever really thought about why the cap on them looks the way it does.
In 1991, the BIC company presented the world with a new design solution for its pens which remained completely unnoticed by the majority of people: there was now a small hole in the top of the cap of their extremely popular Cristal Pen.

1Many people paid no attention to this innovation. Yet at the same time, the decision to adopt this design has saved the lives of a large number of children. More than a hundred children, to be precise. As well as a slightly smaller number of adults. Every year.
Small children love to taste all kinds of objects which fall into their hands, especially small ones which they can fit whole in their mouths. Adults, on the other hand, love to chew on the cap of a pen when they’re concentrating intensely, or when nervous. A pen cap can very easily get lodged in a person’s windpipe, causing them to choke. In such situations, that little hole in the cap helps a person get enough oxygen whilst the ambulance is on its way.

BIC’s decision to adopt the design solution was backed by all the other large manufacturers of pens, whilst the the British Standards

Institution produced an amendment into its existing recommendations for this particular item’s production and use.


It seems that the oft-cited claim that ’You can recognize a good design straightaway’ is highly relevant in this particular case.