Good design sells. And if you want proof of that you need look no further than United Kingdom-based kitchenware company Joseph Joseph, which in less than 10 years has gone from new starter to desirable brand. The company has seen business growth of 80 percent a year for the past three years, it regularly appears among the winners of international design competitions, and most of its products make extensive and very obvious use of plastics.
Joseph Joseph was set up in 2003 when two brothers Antony and Richard Joseph decided to combine their expertise (Antony studied design at Central St. Martins in London while Richard has a business degree from Cambridge University). However, their original focus was not on plastics.
Our father was a glass manufacturer based in Birmingham, said designer Antony Joseph. He bought a business making glass work-top savers, selling to traditional cook shops, and after Richard and I left college he asked us to come and look at the designs.
With the two brothers on board, the family firm started to introduce other glass items. But they soon realized that chopping boards were by far the best sellers so began to develop a range of kitchenware products instead. And that move resulted in Joseph Joseph as it is today a London-based, plastic kitchenware design team that strives to add an extra, innovative twist to every product in its range.
One example is the Nest 8 range, an eight-piece collection of measuring cups, bowls, sieve and colander. The twist is that all the elements stack within each other like a Russian doll, making the collection ideal for students or urban dwellers that are short on storage space.
Other Joseph Joseph innovations include a measuring spoon with integrated magnets so users can keep it stuck to their fridge, a colander shaped like a scoop for easy food transfer, and a novel measuring jug with an additional small chamber for measuring liquids in amounts as small as 5 milliliters.
Most of the products are made largely or entirely of plastics and Antony Joseph said a great deal of consideration goes into deciding which polymer will best suit the design.
There are always pros and cons weighing up which kinds of plastics to use, including cost, distortion and whether the plastic may eventually mark, he said. For example, for the chopping boards, polypropylene or polyethylene are the materials of choice because they're soft and don't dull kitchen knives. We have had a few complaints from people saying the boards score but that's the point they are supposed to score!
PP also is ideal for the Chop2Pot chopping board which folds into a chute to guide the food into a saucepan because it is a good material for creating living hinges, Antony Joseph said.
Cost is a critical consideration, especially for the larger products such as the stacking Nest sets. There was a choice of plastics that could be used for the Nest: PP, ABS or melamine. But if we had used melamine we would have had to make the product a lot thicker because it's more brittle than ABS. The cost would have pretty much doubled, he said.
Antony Joseph said the company also has to take into account the differing worldwide regulations concerning chemicals and plastics.
We have a range of plastic containers for tea, coffee and sugar storage which were originally made of polycarbonate, he said. We couldn't sell them in Japan because some of the chemicals used to make polycarbonate are banned there so we had to switch to styrene acrylonitrile.
In terms of design, Joseph said that, despite the company's use of eye-catching colors, their primary goal is functionality. We're not designing to be decoratively pleasing, he said. We're looking to develop functional solutions to problems in the kitchen and make your life easier when you're preparing or serving food.
The range is created for wide appeal. All products that are in the eye line of the user, for example bread bins or coffee jars, are available in white, black or clear colors as well as the brighter hues the Joseph Joseph brand has become associated with. And the designers look to cater to all social groups.
Our products appeal to students, especially things like the space-saving Nest, right through to pensioners, Antony Joseph said.
However, not all of the Joseph Joseph design magic takes place in-house. The company works with several other design companies, including London-based Morph, a company that has a strong history in graphic design. They've got the right aesthetic for our products, he said.
Other design partners are chosen for their specific experience in plastics, especially when products call for certain molding or assembly skills. We have products which are more technically demanding from an engineering point of view, so we use engineers to design those, he said.
The brothers' hard work has clearly paid off as the Joseph Joseph formula has been a hit with the buying public; its chopping boards are claimed to have been among Amazon's most popular items in the run-up to Christmas last year.
Joseph believes that this popularity is down to a combination of the usefulness of its products and their eye-catching appearance and keen pricing no Joseph Joseph product costs more than £40 ($60).
Consumers are not alone in being won over by Joseph Joseph's designs; the company's offices in London are decorated with a shelf full of international awards.
The Nest design won a German Red Dot prize last year for the art of living and the lifestyle of the future. Other design awards include a Grand Prix at the Tokyo Gift show in Japan and a Gold Winner of a Housewares Industry Award 2009. And the company was listed in the 2009 FastTrack 100, a list of the fastest-growing businesses in the United Kingdom.
Joseph Joseph is currently gearing up to launch its new product collection, which will hit the shelves in spring. The range includes many of the current bestsellers including the Elevate utensils, which feature weighted plastic handles to lift the head clear of the worktop to minimize mess as well as a number of new products.
One new design is the QuickSnap, an easy-release ice cube tray with a unique switch mechanism. This allows the user to release each ice cube individually, preventing the usual swathe of ice cubes dropping all over the kitchen.
Antony Joseph said that among his favorite products in the new range is a salad bowl with integrated servers, which he sees as a great example of how design details can bring real innovation even to the most established products.
The construction is similar to other products on the market but just slightly changing the design makes them unique. The undercut on the salad bowl means that two servers can neatly slot onto the side. The detail is the clever bit.
There's no reason why you can't keep coming back to products like salad bowls and keep reinventing them again and again, he said.
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