Beer Flavor Pictographs

I like beer. I really like to try new beers, but it is hard to know which ones to choose when there are so many delicious new micro-brews on the shelf.

The Idea : Put a small industry wide standardized pictograph on the bottle of beer to indicate what it will taste like. As best I can gather, there are 5 commonly used measurements that establish the primary taste of a beer (see brutalbeers)

  1. Alcohol By Volume (ABV)
  2. International Bitterness Units (IBU)
  3. Original Gravity (OG)
  4. Final Gravity (FG)
  5. Color

So if we were to lay out those measurements on a graph where, for example, ABV is on the right, IBU on the left, OF and FG on the top and bottom, connect the dots, then fill the resulting polygon with the expected color (since most beer does not come in clear glass bottles), we would have our pictograph.

American Lager Example Pictograph

A hypothetical example of what a pictograph for a standard American lager might look like.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Example Pictograph

A guess as to what the pictograph might look like for Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale (one of my favorite beers), based on their posted values of [6.8% ABV, 16 OG, 4 FG, 65 IBU].

Example Pictogram Placement

Example of a pictograph placement. But you get the idea.

The pictograph could be quite small, say 1 cm (1/3 inch) squared, and would just be a visual indicator as to what to expect. The actual precise values may be referred to elsewhere on the label or on the web.

Obviously there is much more complexity to beer than just these 5 metrics, but I would imagine that smart chemists, brewers and graphic designers could take this idea and run with it to come up with something meaningful to help us, the beer-loving public. I fully recognize that the tastes would likely differ because of the intricacies of the brewing process, additives, shelf life, shipping processes, etc…, but as noted above, this is just an indicator to expected taste. Ultimately if the final implementation produced reasonably distinct images for distinct flavors, I would argue that this would provide significant value.

To expand upon the idea, different base shapes could be used for different beer types, so for ales, the base shape would be a square (as indicated above), whereas for lagers, maybe rotate the square 90 degrees? Or use a circle to elongate mid-ranged values? Again, I am not a designer, so I would rely on more capable people to really refine the idea.

Furthermore, why stop at beer? This same iconography could be applied to wine, bread, basically anything with a reasonably finite set of metrics used to describe it.

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Bar Shampoo

Make shampoo in bar form, like a bar of soap, as opposed to liquid. When washing your hair, you rub the bar on your head to create the lather and the rest is as it would be with liquid shampoo. A value-added benefit would be to put shampoo and conditioner in one bar. If they can’t be merged together (like Pert brand shampoo does), then put shampoo on one side of the bar and conditioner on the flip side, or two smaller bars wrapped in the same package.


  • Post 9-11 in America, the TSA has messed with airport security, and this would reduce the amount of liquid we need to travel with on the plane.
  • Reduced shipping costs since you are not shipping a mostly water product (like liquid shampoos).
  • Easier to store in the bathroom since the form factor is less bulky.
  • Friendlier on landfills since the wrapper could be made out of compostable paper (like Dr. Bronner’s soap)
  • Takes less space in small showers.

Funny Story: A few years back, I had the good fortune to sit with a friend’s dad at dinner. He had long since retired from his job as a chemist for a big consumer products firm and was regaling me with “war stories from the lab”. The one that stands out is that he and his team accidentally discovered liquid dish soap at a time when everyone was using powdered dish soap. This was before electric dish washers were commonplace. He took the discovery to his boss who dismissed it saying, “no, we use powdered soap for dishes, no one will want to use liquid soap for dishes”. I think at my supermarket there are probably 20 non-machine liquid dish soaps and maybe, if even, one powdered. That was a missed opportunity.

Side Note: You may see me posting ideas that may already be out there, like Bar Shampoo. What I am really then urging is wider adoption of the idea across a broader range of products. Like with the two toilet paper (“TP”) ideas, I really want them to be used by Charmin (made by P&G) since it is my strongly-preferred brand of TP. Likewise with Bar Shampoo, I would like to see it extended to premium brands of shampoo and include conditioners, not just reusing some shampoo formula from the 1800’s.

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Christmas Tree Watering Reservoir

I feel guilty every year for not treating our Christmas tree properly while in its stand. We get busy with the holidays and I neglect to water our tree, which seems pretty cruel. The following is a proposal for a gravity-fed (no power required) Christmas tree (or other plant) watering system. Simply, there would be a float that would sit in the tree water attached to a valve. When the water level is low, the valve opens, letting water in, and closing when full. It is the exact same thing in most toilet tanks, only for your Christmas tree.

Tree Watering System

Tree Watering System

Some key concepts to bear in mind:

  1. While it could be marketed to fit on any stand as a screw-on attachment, the better idea is to have it integrated into the stand to protect the float and plumbing.
  2. If marketed as an attachment, it would need to be on a leveling platform to accommodate stands with non-vertical edges.
  3. The reservoir should be:
    1. Able to hold enough water for a standard-sized tree for a whole month.
    2. Collapsible so it can stow away with the stand or tree decorations.
    3. Sealable at the top (fill side) in case it tips over.
    4. Able to fit under the bath tub faucet so it is easy to fill (i.e., not too tall).
    5. Easily detachable from the valve without spilling so it can be refilled mid-season with easy.
    6. Have a long enough hose that the reservoir can be hidden significantly far behind the tree.
  4. There likely should be some redundancy with the valve system so if the primary float system fails (causing overflow) there is a secondary detection system higher up that can seal the water off.
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Merge Distance Alert

Problem: Freeway drivers do not leave enough room for cars to enter the freeway at highway speeds, causing cars in the merge lane to brake more than needed, resulting in excessive traffic.

The Idea: Before each merge on the freeway in congested areas, have a sensor that gathers the speed and distance between cars in the merge lane. If a car is not leaving appropriate room to allow for an up and coming merge, a sign flashes a message indicating they need to “LEAVE ROOM FOR MERGE” (or a similar message). The more natural slowing of vehicles this creates would be less impact on the lane of traffic than a car having to come to a complete stop to allow space for the merging car.

Example of a bad merge (left) where the red car will need to stop to allow the blue car to merge, causing a traffic backup and potential collision.  The good merge solution (right) might be to warn the yellow car to slow down ahead of time, thus leaving room for the merging blue car, thereby curing the problem of sudden stops.

Example of a bad merge where the red car will need to stop to allow the blue car to merge, causing traffic. The solution where the yellow car slows ahead of time leave a gap for the blue car so a hard stop is not necessary.

Most drivers know they need to leave room for cars to merge in front of them, but when we are all wrapped up in traffic, after a long day at work, our frustration and common sense go out the window causing problems like this. This system would be a strong reminder to negligent drivers that they have a responsibility not just to themselves, but to sustain the fluid continuity of the highway system.

Key Design Concepts: The system would consist of two parts, the sensor and the sign. The sensor would likely use off-the-shelf technology to detect the speed and distance between cars. The sign could be either digital, mechanical or fixed, but the alert on the sign to the offending driver should be conspicuous both day and night. Given the system can be independently maintained and managed, not needing to be integrated into a central traffic management system, installation would likely be a low effort endeavor, where a small team of highway workers could likely install several in any given day. Initial deployments of this solution would likely only need to be alerting drivers during rush hour. An ideal system would be totally self contained (solar powered or wind powered?) further reducing the cost of installation and maintenance.

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Interior Traffic Flow Lines

Many systems are put in place to “coach” humans to work together more effectively. Stoplights for example. Under that guise, I really think more indoor establishments, specifically big and crowded places like malls and Costco, should use more interior lane striping. Using the standard US Highway Yellow and White stripe system that many are accustom too would be a good basis to indicate appropriate direction and more importantly, no parking zones and through-ways. The general idea here is to reduce the number of times a cart is left in the middle of the isle, blocking traffic in multiple directions. The intent here is not to force shoppers into a channel, but to leverage their previously-coached training to follow the lines.

Interior Traffic Lanes

Example of interior traffic lanes

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Car/Mobile Radio Tuner Seek By Signal Strength

When using the “Seek” option on your car radio, which most seem to have, it should seek by signal strength and not by station identification, as is usually the case. In the case that two or more stations are of equal reception strength, then order by station identification.

Why? Those going to a specific station number are more likely to use the dial or a pre-set feature to get to that specific station. The seek function is pretty much only used when you don’t know what station to listen to, so why not present the stations with the best signals first?

There is lots of room for bonus features in this space, like filtering off the digital stations when in analog mode, or vice versa, and/or ranking digital higher than analog in the seek order, etc… Given my car radio is 10 years old, I will assume some of these have been taken care of already, but as I noted before, I post these ideas hoping for broader acceptance.

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Drivers License Citizenship Quiz

A friend of ours is working on becoming a U.S. citizen. We were out to lunch with her and had fun reviewing the citizenship exam questions over lunch. However, it did occur to us as we were reviewing the questions for the exam that most American citizens could probably not answer most of them. This idea is intended to ensure the citizens of our democracy are more actively engaged with their government, and better equipped to be informed voters, as opposed to mindlessly absorbing the nonsense spouted from for-profit “news” agencies.

The Idea: When registering and renewing a driver’s license, the written driving test would include a random selection of questions from the citizenship exam. This would be true for even those not yet old enough to vote in an effort to get them thinking about their government and their role in their government before they can start to vote. When discussing this over lunch, there was some debate as to whether or not failure to pass the citizenship questions would merit a failure on the driver’s exam, for which I hold no strong opinion. Maybe those questions could be weighted to be ½ the weight of the other questions, or something like that?

Why: Democracy is not easy government. It demands a lot from its citizens; first and foremost is to be an informed voter. The educational system doesn’t stand a chance against the onslaught of for-profit media that drones on throughout the election season. The hope is to reinvigorate the voting masses to remind them of how lucky they are to have the right to vote and of the enormity of that responsibility.

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