The UK power plug is a design which has remained almost unchanged since it started being plugged into electrical outlets in 1947. Back then, televisions were the size of a chest of drawers and music players could be the size of a child’s bed – hardly the kind of kit which required a travel-friendly plug.
Now, of course, our technological world is much more portable, and the plug’s prongs are capable of causing all manner of scratches and scuffs to laptops and the like when carried around.
Min-Kyu Choi was studying at London’s Royal Academy in 2009 when he scratched his laptop with the pins from the power cord. Deciding to redesign it, he set to work. “Firstly, I analysed the whole element of the product, and which I can change and which I can’t change. I found a really small list I can’t change, literally the dimensions of the pin. So I just rearranged the pin position so I could make it slim enough. The answer was quite easy.”
Choi’s design allows the live and neutral pins, on the bottom of the plug, to pivot 90 degrees so they align with the earth pin on the top. The two flaps on the side then collapse, helping form a diminutive box which measures only 14x55x60mm.
The design, which was initially a student project, soon became a viral hit. Working alongside his friend Matthew Judkins, a fellow student at Imperial College, the Korean designer’s radical rethink won the Design of the Year at London’s Design Museum in 2009.
The pair have now set up a company to market the phone charger – known as Mu – from Marlow, a town in Buckinghamshire, west of London.
Choi and Judkins’ folding design has initially been marketed as a USB charger for smartphones, tablets and music players. Initial hesitance from retailers – mainly, Judkins says, because they are a company with a single product – has been slowly overturned. Now the chargers are stocked in one of the UK’s major department store chains, and in shops run by telecoms giant O2.
Judkins says; “It’s one of those interesting ones where once you show someone what we’ve done, it’s obvious. The strange thing about this is people think, ‘Why didn’t I do that?’”
The folding designs won’t stop there either; a Mu powercord which can recharge laptops is also being planned. Choi’s laptop may not have been scratched in vain…