Smashed pen

There it is on the edge of the driveway.

The shattered remnants of a Bic Cristal ballpoint pen on the hard bitumen, shards of the clear hexagonal barrel crushed around the thin plastic ink reservoir and tip.

It was designed by Marcel Bich in 1949 as the world’s first affordable pen. Bich developed a viscosity of ink that neither leaked nor clogged and, under a ballpoint pen patent licensed from Bíró, launched the Cristal in December 1950.

Bich invested heavily in advertising, hiring poster designer Raymond Savignac in 1952. That year Bic won the French Oscar de la publicité award for advertising.

In 1953 advertising executive Pierre Guichenné advised Bich to shorten his family name to Bic as an easy-to-remember, globally adaptable tradename for the pen.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Bic Cristal’s writing tip and ergonomic design helped shift the worldwide market for pens from fountain pens to ballpoints.

It wasn’t long before it was declared the best selling pen in the world.

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