The big chill

As consumers, we all fancy ourselves inventors at one time or another. Who hasn’t uttered this question: Wouldn’t it be nice if they made a (insert the name of product) that did (insert brilliant idea)? But if the idea never meets the people who can put it into action, it simmers without ever coming to a boil.

One website is working to change that. Last fall introduced the Icebox Innovation Contest. Sponsored jointly with Sears Kenmore, the contest challenged consumers to come up with ideas for improving refrigerators. “People who design refrigerators deal with a blank canvas,” with no input from outsiders, says Matthew Greeley, CEO of, a site that invites the sharing of all sorts of ideas. If creators hear from the people who use their products, they’ll be more likely to keep their designs crisp. promoted the contest on its website, with banner ads and a marketing campaign. More than 3,500 individuals submitted over 4,000 ideas, ranging from the wacky (how about

a fridge with a seat for cooling off in the summer?) to the eminently useful (let’s find a way to keep those darn leftovers from getting lost in the back). Entrants could submit drawings but none were required. Judges included a senior product designer at Sears Kenmore, Greeley and one of the cosponsoring sites.