If there is one category of things we design that best illustrates the adage of “form follows function”, it’s probably housewares, which Sara Little called “cook’s tools”. When you are working in the kitchen, you want everything to work properly, be durable, readily stored in a tight space, and look good if you keep it out on the kitchen counter.

Industrial designers are hired by manufacturers, who are often “material driven” in that they have a factory that produces products from glass, metal, wood, ceramic, or some other material, and that material becomes the primary criteria for the design. We have to think about how to maximize the attributes of each particular material.

As an example, we have designed a lot of products for iSi, which are made of silicone rubber, a flexible material that withstands high heat or freezing temperatures.  This is an interesting material because the heat resistant aspect is similar in concept to glass and ceramic (which are silicates), but it’s flexible, so the idea is to take advantage of the heat resistance and flexibility.

The first products we did were mixing bowls and measuring cups. Mixing bowls, it turns out are the most popular housewares item, and everybody has at least a couple of mixing bowls in their kitchen. Measuring cups and spoons are next in the order of popularity.
We deliberately made the design look flexible, with an undulating top edge in order facilitate pouring and communicate the attributes of the product through the design.

The flexibility of the material allows you to “make a spout” so that you can pour things accurately.  This is a very important attribute to cooks, and you can’t do this with bowls and cups made from other materials.


We designed a whole grouping of products around this idea of flexibility, and “Make your own spout”, called Flex~it and many of them are sold at the Museum of Modern art. Eventually we branched out from silicone to some flexible polymers to design sets of measuring cups and spoons that didn’t need the heat resistance of silicone. These have a number of attributes that other similar products do not have.

Process: We have designed things in a lot of materials, the process we use is our own, and we often start off by making what we call a sketch “matrix” of various products.  Here are some versions of that: 

Normally we start with pencil sketches, photographs and three dimensional models to create computer images that give us an idea of what the products are going to look like.  In many cases, a matrix like this appears on the catalog.

The Corning Designs products started out as individual “boards”, showing various ideas we wanted to put together’

This formal “drawing board” approach with plan views and elevations not only was a way to look at concepts, but eventually led to packaging, the way we showed products in trade shows, and created the style for the print advertising we did.

It’s another way of thinking about the design in a holistic manner, going from a drawing to a model, to a product to a package to an advertisement to a trade show .

Industrial designers have often been accused of being obsessed by chairs. In our practice, we are driven by (working backwards from Eliel Saarinen’s idea) houses, kitchens, tables, and bowls. We have designed a lot of bowls in many materials, each having it’s own function - Here are a few - we will address kitchens on another page:

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We’ve also made a lot of teakettles, and the one on the left was used in sets by many companies over the years.

A tool is an extension of the hand.


                      Yuyu nesting bowl set                                           Pfaltzgraff / Longaberger American Craft Originals

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