The paper clip

I decided on the paper clip because it is one of the most common office utensils found everywhere. The multiple different uses and the simplicity of it drove me to chose the un-wavered design of the paperclip.


An inventor from Norway, Johan Vaaler received a patent for this design in Germany in 1899 since Norway had no patent laws at that time. He received an American patent in 1901. The patent says, “It consists of forming same of a spring material, such as a piece of wire, that is bent to a rectangular, triangular, or otherwise shaped hoop, the end parts of which wire piece form members or tongues lying side by side in contrary directions.” Although other unpatented designs might have existed first, Vaaler was the first person to patent a paperclip design in Norway while William D. Middlebrook of Waterbury, Connecticut patented it in The United States on November 9, 1899. Middlebrook also invented the machine to produce the paper clip.


Paper clips are typically used for holding loose sheets of paper together. You slide it on the top and/or bottom of a stack of paper to hold them together. There are also numerous other ways to use paperclips un your daily life.

Middlebrook’s Patent for the Machine


The user is everybody. Everyone has a use for the paperclip. To young children in school, holding together their papers, to old farts in the retirement home, everyone has a need to keep their papers held together. With the multiple different uses it grows the users demographics. The multiple DIY egg dipper for easter eggs or as a bookmark or a necklace clasp, the different uses make it one of the most diverse and common place objects. 
Materials + Production

It’s made from It’s just a thin piece of steel wire bent three times into a double-oval shape. The wire is so thin and pliable the user can easily bend it themselves to create something completely different that makes this design even more of a perfect design.

The process of making the paper clip begins with a huge spool of steel wire. A factory worker feeds the end of the wire into the machine. The machine folds the wire into three bends by cutting it and passing it by three small wheels, The first wheel makes the first bend at 180 degrees, the second makes the next bend, and the third wheel makes the last.


With the mass production of the rather small object, the paper clip is one of the most affordable things in the world. From a quick google shopping search you can buy a 100 count box for $0.19. That’s less than a gum ball at the mall.