Exploring the Evolution of the Mousetrap


Publication date



The Design Society

Document type


This paper contributes to a pedagogical approach to teaching design related to social development by presenting and discussing the technical-solution and design evolution of a simple, everyday product. There is a need to explore the influence of social developments on approaches to product development and design solutions. It is important that students experience and observe how social conventions influence design. This paper investigates whether the evolution of the mousetrap has been driven by highly pragmatic and ergonomic influences or by certain social developments influencing how the (Western) world behaves towards fundamental questions, such as the issue of death. A case study of mousetraps focuses on what has been a principal solution of mousetrap construction from the first patented trap in the early 1900s to the latest models: a stroke against the neck of mice. How has the evolution of this solution been expressed in the objects? Immaterial values are reflected in the traps, and this case study shows how social norms can outweigh technical and ergonomic considerations in product development. Describing and analysing the history of the trap and considering relevant theory can have an impact on design students to reflect more on the market and social awareness. Using specific and typical examples from the history of the mousetrap and visually showing how the development of the trap over more than 100 years will contribute to understanding the complex issues involved in simple, everyday objects.


Permanent URL (for citation purposes)

  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/2433