Thursday February 22, 2007 | 6 comments
Don Norman, one of design’s most influential theorists, used three teapots to represent the distinction between visceral, behavioral, and reflective design. There’s something inspiring about an object designed for such a specific, simple purpose. Any vessel that pours in a tight stream, insulates the user’s hand from heat, and filters leaves qualifies as a teapot, which might be why there’s so much diversity in their design. Like chairs and lamps, the teapot is a chance for industrial designers to articulate their DNA. These are some that have inspired my own design work:
Dresser is one of the first designers to work directly with mass production. I don’t think any designer has been able to negotiate the tension between ornamentation and simplicity so well since. The thin dark wood handle, visibly bolted to the metal, is my favorite part of this teapot, which still looks fresh more than 100 years after it was designed.
The Mingei movement in Japan gained momentum a decade after Dresser and existed in reaction to the onset of mass-production. Shoji Hamada, a prolific Mingei ceramicist, made this piece. My first impressions of these products was that they are rustic, functional, unpretentious; minimalism striped of its shininess, as if pure, strong-lined objects were washed, perhaps left for too long in the dryer, and folded over the course of many years so that the edges begin to fray and their whiteness turns more earthy.
Molo design is Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen, and their Tea Lantern is the most functional teapot I’ve encountered. It looks like a precise piece of lab equipment and uses a vacuum chamber to keep tea hot and cold liquids cold, just like a thermos. Float really is a teapot drilled down to its functional requirements, and is visually the opposite of Hamada’s pot.
This moka pot by Richard Sapper isn’t for tea, but its too good a design to not mention. Sapper replaced the traditional moka’s clunky shape and threaded closure with a restrained stacked-cylinder construction and elegant snap-shut closure. The tiny spout that manages not to drip is one of my favorite parts- if only he designed for tea.