Inventables: The Superstore That Sells Sci-Fi Materials to IDEO and Nike [Slideshow]

Somewhere deep inside every creative professional lurks the spirit of a Willy-Wonka-style nutty inventor or Dr. Evil-esque mad scientist. (Or both.) And — an online warehouse of weird materials like “shape memory polymers” and “squishy gel magnets” — is the perfect place to let that spirit roam free. Sure, you may not actually buy anything, but spend a few minutes browsing Inventables’ wares, and you’re bound to at least spark some wild ideas.

But isn’t some playland for dilettante dreamers: its customers include IDEO, Black & Decker, and Nike. “We believe that it is currently too difficult for designers, artists, and inventors to source materials,” CEO Zach Kaplan told Co.Design via email. “To solve this problem, we are building an innovators hardware store that will streamline the process of innovation and inspire everyone?regardless of profession?to explore what’s possible.”

Every item for sale — no matter how odd-sounding — has a real-world function which is clearly explained on the product page. Which means it’s easy to browse for inspiration, or get in and out quickly and back to work. After all, that [insert so-crazy-it-just-might-work dream project here] ain’t gonna build itself.

[Check out; the website is superbly designed]JP