When we talk about innovation you often think of huge leaps forward in product or design that change the face of a sector, but this isn’t always the case. Innovation is staring us in the face pretty much every day and we don’t even realise it.

white keyboard photo: Pexels
Have you ever wondered why the F and J keys on your computer keyboard have a ridge on them?

RIFT Research and Development, the R&D tax credit specialists, has highlighted 12 everyday hidden design innovations and what they were introduced for that we may otherwise never have noticed or thought about. 

The pen lid

While you may have attempted to whistle through your pen lid either at school or in the office, this isn’t the function of the hole in the top or why it was introduced. It did, however, come about because of our tendency to put pen lids in our mouths and was designed to stop children in particular from choking should they accidentally swallow it, with the hole preventing suffocation. 

The can ring-pull

The primary function of the ring-pull on a can of fizzy drink is to open it, and that’s all right? Wrong. The reason there is a hole in the ring pull isn’t just to allow more purchase when opening it, it was actually designed and implemented to turn around and double up as a straw holder so you can enjoy your drink with greater ease. 

That odd piece of fabric with an item of clothing

How often do you get a new shirt or blouse and it comes with a puzzling square of spare fabric? Many of us live our lives believing this is used to replace any holes, rips or tears in the clothing and this is its secondary use. However, you might not have realised it’s actually there so you can test washing the fabric with your chosen conditioner and temperature to ensure it isn’t damaged before you wash the item of clothing itself.

The doorknob

While your doorknob may now be made of PVC plastic or similar, there was a good reason they used to be made from brass or another type of alloy metal. These metals help prevent antibiotic resistance in bacteria from spreading, so in essence, this means that doorknobs help prevent the spread of ‘bugs’ as they are antimicrobial.

Wooden clothing hangers

Another design innovation that may no longer be in wider use, but the original wooden clothing hanger was made using Cedarwood. Why? Cedarwood was a natural bug repellent and helped protect clothes from hungry moths. 

The car fuel gauge

When we start out driving we may spend a lot of time looking at our car fuel gauge, usually due to it being illuminated a lot of the time. We also spend as much time when first driving a car pulling up to the pump and then realising the fuel cap is on the opposite side. What you might not have noticed is that the majority of cars have a little arrow pointing at the fuel pump icon to indicate which side it is situated.


Being caught without a staple remover is a pain and can cause it as well when trying to remove them with your fingers. But did you know most staplers come with a built in remover? Just bend up the two short prongs on the back of the staple, then after turning your papers over, slide it under the wide front side and remove the staple.  

The wine glass

You may be pretty familiar with the wine glass but if you’re not a connoisseur you may have spent your life thinking the design is nothing more than aesthetic. Actually, the long stem of the wine glass is a design innovation that allows you to hold your wine without it going warm from the body heat of your hands. 

The wine bottle

The wine business is clearly full of innovation. Next time your chugging down a bottle of red, check out the indent at the bottom of the bottle. Again, this isn’t to look pretty, it helps control the pressure of the bottle when corking and also creates a space where any sediment can settle, which in turn stops it from ending up in the glass.

Computer keyboards

You’re probably sat at a computer right now. Check out the F and J keys. See those two little ridged lines? They’re there so that touch typists can find their place on the keyboard without having to look.

Jean pockets

That tiny little pocket within a pocket isn’t there for your lighter or other small non-smoking related object, although it is pretty well suited. But that coincidence is the evolution of an original design innovation back when jeans were invented. This pocketed was included to hold the pocket watch as they were all the rage at the time.

The shirt

Even the simple shirt has seen innovative design developments over the years. Ever wondered about that random loop between the shoulder blades? If you don’t have your moth repellent cedarwood clothes hanger to hand, this loop allows you to hang the shirt by a peg without creasing it. 

Director of RIFT Research and Development, Sarah Collins, comments: ‘Sometimes, the most innovative of design or product advancements are some of the smallest that tend to go unnoticed. However, while they may be small they can be implemented for incredible purposes that range from everything to saving lives, saving time, protecting other items and even increasing the enjoyment of wine. The fact some of these design innovations go largely unnoticed is an even greater testament to the work done implementing them and it goes to show that no matter how small the development, any work on innovation and progression can be an R&D game changer.’