Can We Completely Redesign the Compass?

New design seeks to breed creativity, help users translate ideas to paper.

David Cullimore and Vinnay Chhabildas are industrial designers who noticed that many people had ideas to share but were reluctant to sketch those ideas onto paper.  A tool that allowed users to easily transfer round objects in the head to physical sketches could help the issue but they wanted a tool simpler and more elegant than a compass. Their solution is the Rotio, a redesigned compass for drawing curves and circles – the group is running a highly successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their first run of production components. Rotio takes a familiar tool, boils it down to its essential requirements, and then creates a product to meet those requirements.

Rotio has two sizes, a standard that can draw circles from 40 to 140 millimeters in diameter, and a plus model that can go up to 200 millimeters diameter. The idea was to work around a standard A4 (8 ½ x 11 inch) sheet of paper. The body of the Rotio is made of machined aluminum, with a ball bearing in the center and a small o-ring underneath the body to contact the paper. The designers hope that this method of drawing arcs will provide an intuitive, mess-free and hole-free alternative to the compass. The holes in Rotio’s body have a beefy countersink to accommodate most pens and pencils.

There are several thoughts that immediately popped into my head when reading the product description for the Rotio. First, this feels technically like a tool that takes the place of circle templates, not the compass, because there is not adjustability in the circle diameter size. Second, compasses can be purchased in the plastic drafting kits I see every year around back to school time at dollar stores, so a redesign that costs more than ten dollars might not be the perfect solution. However, this Kickstarter campaign has been wildly popular and moved well past its modest £10,000 initial fundraising goal. The comment section of the campaign is buzzing with people asking for additional features like a ruler engraved into the side, additional interior hatches to show the center when drawing, a case to keep the bearing clear from debris, and some kind of attachment to be able to draw circles and arcs on a tablet. The campaign ends on May 17 and Rotios are currently scheduled to ship in November 2018.