• 12.01.06

Just Add Inspiration

A peek inside the Inventables DesignAid kit, the odd but thought-provoking secret weapon of great designers.

Four times a year, Chicago-based Inventables sends A-list companies such as Boeing, Motorola, and Nike a package of 20 gizmos with “unexpected properties.” Although some customers incorporate them into products, that’s not the point, says cofounder Zachary Kaplan, 27. The idea is to inspire innovative thinking by giving inventors unusual technologies and suggesting various applications, labeled a “step,” “stretch,” or “leap,” depending on their feasibility. Companies pay $63,000 a year for the kits and training, and as much as $250,000 for two days of hands-on brainstorming and prototyping. Here’s a sampling from the latest DesignAid, along with Kaplan’s brainstorms.


Design At Its Best: Just Add Inspiration

To submit your own step, stretch, or leap ideas, go to

About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug.