The Internet Fridge Factor

A few weeks ago I was invited by General Assembly to give a talk at the Guardian for one of their master classes on the digital economy.

That morning, I was reading about Alan Kay and tumblred upon a talk he gave presenting Ivan Sutherland‘s Sketchpad project.

A simple idea, demoed well. What went wrong? Why isn’t this included in my version of Illustrator or Autocad?

This reminded me of the Internet Fridge. For the past year, Roo Reynolds has been curating a site , collecting all Internet Fridge ideas and the latest attempts of large white goods manufacturers to address this venn diagram that simply won’t stick: Food management and the internet. Brilliant idea, crap implementation over and over again. But the hope lives on. You could say that the same goes for the 1930s Dick Tracy watch which LG tried to launch and might come to life with Pebble. There is a lot of hope in technology and in other areas of innovation. It can be a useful form of short-sightedness.

So I thought I’d talk about the Internet Fridge Factor (IFF) as a shortcut to a series of ideas around innovation:

– recurring ideas in design
– ideas that are brilliant but make terrible products
– ideas that are old, but so good, people keep wanting them to happen no matter what
– ideas that take forever to come to life
– ideas that age well (we refer to jetpacks almost 100 years after they were first mentioned) and illustrate some parts of our lives haven’t changed that much
– ideas where the implementation is always a disappointment because it doesn’t live up to the hype.

It’s useful to look at crazy demos through this lens and realise how much of our innovation stems from the inability to admit ideological defeat. I get the feeling robots might come under this category for example. Time will tell I suppose, as usual.

By designswarm

Blogging since 2005.


  1. Nice concept!

    Another example that comes to mind is augmented-reality goggles. Everyone would love to have them, the idea is awesome, but the implementation always disappoints.

    Case in point: The Goggle Glasses.

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