It’s a stick with bristles poking out of it. It doesn’t even qualify as a simple machine, but the careful thought and design that went into the creation of the modern, angled bristle, fat-handled toothbrush shows just how much brainpower goes into something that is designed to simply work well and not be noticed all that much (until it’s time to buy the next one).
This piece features John Edson, President of LUNAR. Full disclosure: LUNAR underwrites 99% Invisible, but they don’t and never have attempted to exercise any editorial control over the program. Seriously. They don’t even know what’s on week to week. (Well, this week I told John he was on, but that just seems polite).
We convened a meeting of architects and designers at the AIASF way back in May to brainstorm possible themes and titles for the program, and I expressed a desire to do one episode about a seemingly simple product that required a great deal of complex thought to design, and John Edson mentioned the toothbrush story. Like any good story, I couldn’t shake it and pestered him for an interview. John Edson hadn’t even heard the piece before I posted it. I feel comfortable with that. I hope you do too.