Early this morning I was visited by an old friend in my dreams who reminded me of his revolutionary design thinking. I had the great privilege to have worked with the late Morison Cousins in the early 90's at Tupperware. Morison was the "rock star" which was appropriate since he had already accomplished significant milestones in his industrial design career. I like to think, however, that he and I were collaborators, and I am sure that he would agree. Morison was the artist. I was the commercializing Director of Innovation & Marketing. Form and function.
The image above is of the On The Dot Kitchen Timer, which is part of the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. This product was created as part of our initiative to expand Tupperware's presence from plastic cups & bowls to the entire kitchen with "extraordinary design for everyday living." This little kitchen timer was significant, perhaps even transformative, to Tupperware in many ways. It was the Company's first foray into kitchen gadgets. It was the Company's first "mechanical" device. It was the first product to be sold by Tupperware that would be manufactured by another company in Italy. It was the first product that would be sold with a "guarantee of satisfaction" rather than the Company's well-know lifetime guarantee. After all, it was not reasonable to expect that this device could withstand the rigors of a lifetime of use.
The product was and is a perfect representation of Morison's design philosophy. Simple. Clean. Pure. Geometric. Functional, yes, but the form transcended to create an emotional connection with its user. There was a sense of beauty and artistry to this simple functional device that made it exceptional enough to have become part of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum's permanent collection. There was also a sense of whimsical personality that I wanted to capture with the name, so I coined the product as the On The Dot Kitchen Timer. It made me smile. It still does. The small spherical dot on the side of its perfectly conical shape was a functional adaptation to keep the timer from rolling off the countertop!
Form and function, yes. Beyond this classic paradigm, however, was, what I believe to be the larger concept of #emotional innovation. There is a sense of magic that happens when a functional item touches our hearts with a sense of beauty and whimsy that simply makes us smile. This idea says that form does not follow function, but rather form is function.
P.S. The On The Dot Kitchen Timer was never sold to consumers. I believe that there is one remaining working prototype at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and one more in my kitchen, where it has made me smile now for over 25 years. The product was deemed as "too dangerous" by a corporate lawyer, who judged the point of the conical shape to be a potential safety hazard. Rather than modify the design with a blunt and clunky point, we decided that this product would remain as part of our memories and in the museum as a pure expression of #emotionalinnovation. #cooperhewitt. #smithsonian.
This blog offers stories and discussions on how to build more relevance and differentiation for brands. The author is Timothy Coffey, Chief Revolutionist of Launchforce Strategy, a consumer research consultancy that specializes in highly creative qualitative methods. His experience ranges from brand and research management at Procter & Gamble to innovation management at Tupperware to founding and leading an integrated marketing strategy agency. He is the author of three books, Innovation Myths & Mythstakes, The New Super Consumer, Mom&Kid, and The Great Tween Buying Machine.