It’s common in the world of bits to talk about delightful products that just make you happy when you use them.

It’s a little less common in the old school world of atoms. I got to thinking about this today when I used a tie-wrap to fix a broken dishwasher rack. Tie-wraps and electrical tape are two boring, practical tools. But they are absolutely delightful to use every time. That’s quite a feat.

Sticky notes are pretty delightful. The Pilot G2 07 pen is too. Starting a car engine with a key is a delightful experience, but driving itself is only sometimes.

There aren’t many more off the top of my head. Maybe paper shredders. These examples are all designed for utility, and the delightfulness factor is a happy byproduct. I wonder what people would come up with if there was an entire R&D lab that did nothing but try to invent physical products that create delightful experiences. Maybe fidget spinners and stress balls, which are cathartic but don’t quite have the same type of delight. Is it because they aren’t utilitarian enough? Is delight enhanced when it just so happens to coincide with a productive function?

Maybe the constraints of utility are the best path to joy.