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Monday, February 9, 2009

bic pen - reinventing the most popular ballpoint

when lászló bíró saw a ball rolling through a puddle 
on the street and leaving a trail of water behind it, he 
conceived an idea that would go on to change everyday 
life forever. based on what he had seen, the hungarian 
journalist along with his brother georg, began to work on 
the first commercially successful ballpoint pen. 

a brief history
bíró had become frustrated by the time spent filling-up 
fountain pens and waiting for the ink to dry. he had seaen 
that the ink used to print newspapers dried much quicker 
and so decided to create a pen using the same type of ink. 
in 1938 the bíró brothers patented a design which featured 
a tiny ball in its tip, which turned freely in a socket. as the 
ball moved along the paper it rotated, picking up ink from 
the cartridge and leaving it on the paper. 

whilst ballpoint pens had existed in the past  - none had 
proved very popular due to constant problems with clogging,
leakage and ink distribution - the bíró's, was the first pen 
that significantly overcame these problems.

after relocating to argentina in 1940 the bírós licensed
their design to a number of makers in the US and britain but
it was almost ten years later when the design was mastered 
and introduced to the rest of the world. marcel bich a french pen 
manufacturer who had bought the ballpoint pen patent from 
lászló bíró - ironed out the remaining design problems 
(mainly ink distribution) and began huge, low cost 
mass prodctions of the 'bic crystal'. 

it's not surprising to hear that in 2005 bic sold its one hundred 
billionth pen, when you consider just how many of their pens 
you might have owned, borrowed or even stolen.

designboom competition entries
at the same time as being a icon of democracy - almost anyone
can afford to buy one - the ballpoint pen is also one of the first
products of the throw-away culture in which we now live.

in some instances the ballpoint pen has been used 
for much more than the initial scribbling-down of an idea.
the 'bic pen' has seen numerous incarnations in 
recent years - in more than one of designboom's competitions, 
participants have decided to transform the iconic writer.

one of the ex-equo winners of the macef award 2008
- dining in 2015, was 'din-ink' by andrea cingoli, 
paolo emilio bellisario, cristian cellini and francesca fontana 
from italy. the design sees pen-lids integrated with cutlery 
allowing the user to transform their writing tools into a knife, 
fork and spoon. finally there is a good excuse for when
you're caught gnawing on the end of your pen!

another designboom competition entry which used the
'bic pen' was giffin termeers 'dasiy vase'. developed for
the macef award 2004 - H2O_on the table, the american
design duo blow-mold the pens by hand. as the plastic 
becomes flexible its stretches allowing the vase to 
sit naturally. since its initial competition success the
'daisy vase' has been shown at designboom marts, 
and can also be purchased online from the designboom shop.

bic pens have found their way into the work of 
several other designers and would-be inventors.
from maneuverable lighting and chandeliers to 
candy and weaponry - more 'bic pen' projects are 
featured (right) here...

'din-ink' by andrea cingoli + paolo emilio bellisario + cristian cellini + francesca fontana, 2007
shortlisted entry of the designboom dining in 2015 competition,
a set of biccaps, including a fork-cap, a knife-cap and a spoon-cap, that replaces
the normal bic cap during lunch time

'daisy vase' - inflated bic pen - by jim termeer and jess giffin, 2004
shortlisted entry of the designboom H2O_on the table competition,

how to fill a daisy vase

‘anemone’ lamp, by paolo ulian, made out of 400 bic pens,
part of the exhibition ‘ la meravigliosa avventura del barone bic ’, aosta, italy 1998

'301 chandelier' by studio empieza, made up of bic pens and paper-clips, 2006

‘volivik 50 na’ table lamp by studio empieza, 2007

a bic pen bow + arrow is a good way to waste time at work or school
see how to build it here

how to make a little blowgun

see also hot to make an Improvised tiny funnel

a spiral pen

an Iink tube shooter

‘suck my bic’ candy cup, by clement eloy
available 5 different flavored cups.

‘object (all around)’, by herbert hinteregger, 2003

‘all over (volume 4)’, by herbert hinteregger, 1998/99

'all over store', installation by by herbert hinteregger, 2006
exhibition view georg kargl permanent

bic pen - reinventing the most popular ballpoint

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