The lowly eggbeater. A functional piece in every kitchen to be sure, but it’s an ordinary, everyday product, not normally associated with high design.
Enter The Design Academy, a California-based design consultancy headed up by industry veteran Chuck Pelly, best known for his work in automotive design. Pelly and his young team of forward-thinking designers have a flair for global style, and applied it in good measure on an exploration of houseware products for Eastman.
Setting out to showcase the attributes of Eastman Tritan™ copolyester, Pelly’s team came up with a product visions platform – contemporary-style kitchen products including a blender, a kettle, a juicer and that eggbeater.
“We envisioned this initiative to show that our new-generation plastics offer better design alternatives than glass or SAN (styrene acrylonitrile)” says Kieran Smith, global industry leader – durables for Eastman. “We chose the housewares segment where we have relevance and can bring near-term value to products.
“These are luxury designs that people want,” says Smith of the housewares collection created by Pelly’s team. “But people don’t want their luxury to be obvious, so the home market is the best penetration point.”
The new features and futuristic look of the housewares concepts redefine the category.
“Designers want to visualize new forms that stop buyers in their tracks, like a magnet or a piece of sculpture in a museum,” Pelly relates.
The product concepts are indeed like a work of art with each part incorporating both aesthetics and ergonomics.
Brilliant colors and detailed ornamentation in the eggbeater add a jewelry-like quality and an element of fun to the part. The aesthetic handle is really an ergonomic feature in the grasp: putting a thumb in the top ring allows the user to move beaters around with better control. The Tritan™-molded gearing mechanism spins the shaft, demonstrating the material’s mechanical strength.
The elegant electric kettle is a clean, slim design combining Tritan™ and aluminum, the idea being to give transparency for viewing the water level. The symbiotic shape and sweeping curve effect represent fluid traveling to the cup as one pours. The L-shaped grip piece ergonomically contours to the user’s hand and forces a balance point for better pouring.
The blender – a classic use of random form against a geometric form – reflects on the outside what is happening on the inside. A three-piece design with an aluminum base and Tritan™ center and lid, the blender’s top and front face have surfaces that emulate water. The solidity of the Tritan™ sections gives a natural weight to the blender, as both a functional and aesthetic value.
The juicer, like the eggbeater, utilizes circular shapes with concave profiles demonstrating how Tritan™ can be used to create variable thick and thin sections. The juicer is symbolically shaped like fruit, its rounded shape carrying into the handle. Ergonomically, the curved outside keeps the part balanced as the user applies pressure in extracting juice. The lid rotates to adjust level of pulp filtration.
“The project presented an unusual opportunity for us, as designers, to work for a material supplier,” says Pelly. “You have so much more freedom. With modern-day plastics, designers in many ways have lost intimacy with materials. This initiative was an effort to regain that intimacy with the material and allowed us free expression.”
The Design Academy team for the housewares concepts consisted of Irwan Azhari from Malaysia and Alex Schultz from New Zealand. Their varied backgrounds and disciplines influence their work and reflect a new sophistication in design, Pelly notes.
“Young designers are bringing ideas from all corners. Their exposure to the world now via e-mail, television and movies is a bit of an equalizer but their ethnic training is also creating unique qualities.
“The ‘island’ mentality is no longer in the vocabulary because of communication and travel. So New Zealand, for instance, has bred unique qualities in young designers that, when exposed to the world, can solve anything. We're going to see little pockets -- highly-creative centers of excellence -- coming from different experiences and interdisciplinary mixes.”
Chuck Pelly was more exuberant than usual when his design consultancy, The Design Academy, was asked to design a showpiece collection of housewares featuring Eastman Tritan™ copolyester. “Carte blanche in creative expression is music to designers’ ears,” he says.
“Design as a tool for input is a wonderful exercise for exploring new ideas,” says Pelly, a legendary designer whose career ranges from designing race cars to boats and snowmobiles.
“Like period sculptors long ago who used to work with the best marble yards, we took the opportunity to use the material as a springboard to bring housewares concepts to a new level.”
“Because of the new material – the special characteristics of Tritan™ – from day one we knew we wanted to reinvent,” says Pelly.
The exercise led to a new, bright design on four ordinary kitchen appliances – an eggbeater, a blender, a juicer and a kettle.
“The material enabled design of a high quality product,” says Pelly.
He cites the following features as the design highlights of the collection:
- “The ability to mold thick and thin parts with Tritan™. The reflection created from the thick parts brings a quality look. It’s exaggerated in the blender, and you could never do this with other materials. With proper design the piece can double or triple the reflection of light. You can show light bouncing and light traveling which adds depth and interest. The movement of light changes the product from static to something with life.”
- “Clarity – there is nothing like the look of crystal. There is a jewelry-like quality in the eggbeater as the material allows tighter tolerance. The detailed ornamentation is like what we used to do in hand-etching and cribbing the old-fashioned way. This allows the designer to make a handcrafted precision look.”
- “Color and tint – the material takes it so well, which gives the product great impact right off the shelf. We used the full spectrum hues for highest vibrancy.”
- “The material ‘plays well with others.’ Designers can combine many materials and change the face. We have combined with stainless steel or coated metal, as featured in the tea kettle. You can have a highly polished surface, dull, matted or tinted, even a watercolor look.”
The Design Academy focused on quality as a key design element.
“It’s a growing social trend to buy fewer, better products,” says Pelly. “The quality that people want also represents a nod back to our lack of sustainable thinking with so many throwaway products created in the past. These designs are intended to last longer so we wanted a higher level of aesthetics and functionality.”
Aesthetics and functionality are expected criteria for The Design Academy, but more than that, their designers seek on an intrinsic level described by Pelly as “the relationship between man, machine, environment and experience.”
In pursuing that mission through the Tritan™ design initiative, The Design Academy adds a new dimension to the traditional housewares space.
So the eggbeater crosses a new threshold. And the collection of concepts is just dreamy enough to lift other houseware products to new heights.