Foldable plug wins Design of the Year award: Glorious British plug gets even better

A flat-pack redesign of the traditional British three-pin plug has won the Brit Insurance Design of the Year Award 2010, making us wonder why no-one's thought of it before

Patrick Steen Special to CNET News
2 min read

Beating 90 entries, ranging from a twin-seat electric aircraft to the late Alexander McQueen's last fashion collection, Min-Kyu Choi's redesign of the charmingly bulky British three-pin plug has won the 2010 Brit Insurance Design of the Year award.

Yes, our beloved British plug may be the best in the world, with an integrated fuse for extra safety, but there's no escaping that it's both chunky and our feet's most feared opposition, just ahead of the garden rake and the humble Lego block. Min-Kyu Choi aims to change this with a flat-pack re-envisioning of a British institution that dates all the way back to 1946.

Choi, 29, designed the product during his Masters at London's Royal College of Art. The idea struck him following the purchase of a wafer-thin MacBook Air. The slimline laptop, famously pulled out of an envelope at its launch, highlighted the design deficiencies of the conventional British plug -- the unwieldy wedge really wasn't designed for portability. Now there's a thinner laptop on the market, Dell's Adamo, and the need for a skeletal plug is even more prevalent.

By rotating the bottom two pins 90 degrees to lie parallel with the static top pin, Choi's redesign takes Britain's 45mm-thick plug and shrinks it down to under 10mm. Now thinner than a slice of toast, the plug can now safely slide away into your laptop bag. Fully patented, the new design also meets British Standard regulation with an accessible and replaceable fuse.

The Design of the Year Awards' judging panel, which featured artist Antony Gormley, designer Tom Dixon, Wired magazine editor David Rowan, and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter, was blown away by its elegant design, the BBC reports.

Gormley heaped praise on the plug: "Thought-through, responsive and modest, the folding plug shows how intelligent, elegant and inventive design can make a difference to everyone's life."

Choi has also designed an adaptor (pictured above) that allows three of his plugs, or a USB plug, to fit into one power point, making our sockets and bags even more clutter-free.

The designs could make Choi a very rich man, and as far as we're concerned we think it should adorn every gadget. Hopefully the product isn't scooped up by a certain manufacturer and awarded the moniker iPlug. The winning design and all other short-listed entries are on display at the Design Museum, London, until 31 October.