What I’ve Got: 4-Color Pen

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Time to get real nerdy. Finding a pen super cool is about as bad as it gets. But I’m proud of this one, because I think the 4-color pen is one of the most functional things I carry around with me every day. In engineering, there is a limit to the things that can be done on the computer (for now). Drawing is an incredibly important part of the work, and the ability to quickly change colors is a huge bonus for note taking, sketching, and working with others. A fellow engineer and I both got one at the start of our junior years, and it has been the only pen we have used since.

Not only is it an incredibly useful product, but it is also a marvelous bit of engineering itself. Have you ever thought about how a retractable pen actually works? Neither had I, until I considered how much more complex it might be to have four different ink tubes and tips extend and lock without error. 

This is a fitting inclusion in my running list of What I’ve Gots. It is a very simple product, a cheap product that I use every day, but a simple and sleek one that delivers an incredible amount of value. It captures a lot of what I think is good in product design: maintaining a low enough technical profile that one doesn’t even recognize that it’s there, staying minimalist and low cost, integrating well into one’s life/work flow, and capitalizing on the former three things to become a relatively ubiquitous product. 

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