The Ballpoint Pen

Personal Selection

My design tool choice is the ballpoint pen. The reason I chose the pen as my tool is because it is a tool that I use every single day and seem to always overlook. It plays a large role in my major and I wouldn’t be able to complete many of my assignments or personal tasks without it.


Papyrus paper and reed pens.

The history of the pen dates back to 3000 BC when the ancient Egyptians developed writing on papyrus scrolls by scribes who used thin reed brushes or reed pens. The reed pen was used until papyrus was replaced by animal skin, vellum, and parchment. The smoother surface of animal skin allowed finer, smaller writing with a quill pen which came from the flight feather. The quill pen was first used in Judea to write various scrolls in 100 BC. By the year 79 BC, metal nibs were used by the people who lived in Pompeii. The metal pen point was patented in 1803, but the patent was not commercially advertised. The fountain pen, which is well known at the present time, was invented by a Parisian student in 1827. By the 1850s, fountain pen patents and production increased dramatically. The first patent of a ballpoint pen was established in 1888. The main reason for the creation of the pen was to record information. Nowadays, pens are used not only to record but to create, entertain, and communicate.

Function + User

The primary function of the pen is to write. It can be used by anyone. Although it is greatly used to write down words in order to record and communicate information, the pen can be used to draw and create. Therefore, the pen can be used by all ages, even by individuals who don’t know how to write a language. Most cultures utilize the pen as a writing tool. The pen is used in all types of environments including schools, workplaces, and homes.

Materials + Production

There are a variety of materials used in making the pen. The main materials include metals, plastics, and other chemicals. In ballpoint pens, the ball of the pen is designed to be a perfect sphere that can grip any kind of writing surface. The surface of it is composed of over 50,000 polished surfaces and pits. The pits are connected by a series of channels that are continuous throughout the entire sphere. This design allows for the ink to be present on both the surface and inside of the ball. The ink of the pen is usually specially made by the pen manufacturer. The ink must be slightly thick and slow drying. These characteristics help make sure the ink continues to flow to the paper without clogging the ball. The way pens are manufactured change depending on the manufacturer, however the basic manufacturing of the pen consists of ink compounding, metal component formation, plastic component molding, piece assembly, packing, labeling, and shipping.


A pen affords writing. The pen itself is designed more than not to have a decent amount of space from the tip of the pen to the end of it to be held. The tip of the pen which contains the ball of the pen as well as the ink communicates to the user that this part of the pen is the part you use to write with. Some pens have a clickable button that allows for the ink tip to enter and exit the case of the pen. This button shows that it is the end of the pen and is not the part that should be used to write with. The tip of the pen and the button at the end of the pen can be considered signifiers since they communicate possible actions of the object.

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