Ever since a scientist in Napolean Bonaparte’s army invented the pencil, it has served as a paragon of functional design: unlike ink, graphite cannot leak. And unlike today’s tablets or computers, a pencil never loses its electrical charge.
Yet there remains one vexing design flaw: as you sharpen and re-sharpen the pencil, it gets whittled down to a nub that’s too small for the human hand. Around 20% of the graphite stored inside goes unused.
Japanese designer Akio Hayakawa fixes that, with his Easy Pencil design. Instead of a wooden pencil that contains an equal length of graphite, the graphite stops short about two inches above the end (where an eraser would normally go, even though one isn’t included on the Easy Pencil).
“Even as the pencil gets shorter, we attempt to use it to the end–even though we know it is difficult,” Hayakawa tells Co.Design. With the Easy Pencil, he’s “trying to take off the desire to use the pencil to the end.” The signal for that stopping point is the golden, wooden end. Once you reach it, it’s time to grab a fresh writing utensil.
The Easy Pencil’s cleverness is that is solves a strange, self-inflicted problem: people are procrastinators. Just like we’re always trying to coax that last bit of soap out of a bottle, or scrape every bit of peanut butter from a jar, we’re also likely to keep scribbling until our fingers eclipse the last bit of that No. 2 pencil.