Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic talks about kettles by famous designers as part of our series of interviews we filmed for the Design Museum Collection App for iPad, which is available to download free from the app store here.
Sudjic explains that kettles by Philipe Starck, Richard Sapper and Jasper Morrison had varying success for reasons including design, production quality and practicality.
Read on for some excerpts from the app:
9091 Whistling Kettle (above)
In 1979, when Alberto Alessi took over the management of the family’s Italian metal goods manufacturing company, he resolved to inject his passion for modern design into the business that was originally established in 1921. Alessi understood that design was the way to differentiate his products from cheaper Asian competitors. While first attempts, including a series of press artworks commissioned from Salvador Dali were commercial failures, within a matter of years, Alessi had realised a winning formula by encouraging designers to add their own personality and flair into the domestic products they designed. As Alberto says, ‘we came up with a kind of cultural-theoretical manifesto that strived to establish a new commercial culture that offered mass consumers truly artistic items at an affordable price’. German-born Richard Sapper’s 1983 Whistling Kettle was amongst the first products to be born of this manifesto and set the benchmark for future Alessi collaborations.
Hot Bertaa is Philippe Starck's bold experiment in designing a minimalist sculptural kettle. Starck's design reduces the aesthetic of how a kettle should look down to its simplest shape. The handle and spout are a single piece that skewers the sculptural body of the kettle. Starck said he was trying to instil a sense of movement into a static object; he called it his ‘theory of immoveable aerodynamics.’ Despite being in production for only seven years, it successfully claimed a new share of the market for its manufacturers Alessi, using the idea of mass produced design as art object and gift. Despite its poor functionality as a kettle, Alberto Alessi has described Hot Bertaa as a 'beautiful fiasco', admiring it for its playful take on everyday 'kettling'.
The French manufacturer Rowenta had long been highly regarded in the United States as a technical innovator in steam irons, so when they wanted to break into the home appliances market, the company approached British designer Jasper Morrison to develop the ‘Brunch’ set, a new, distinctive range of kitchen appliances incorporating a coffee maker, a toaster and a kettle. At a time when many mass- market kettles appeared concerned with packing in as many features as possible, Morrison’s 2004 kettle did away with all extraneous features. A simple push button turns the kettle on, while inside, a smooth stainless steel element resists buildup and provides fast, efficient heating. The lid is fully removable for cleaning, and holds a limescale particle filter so that only clear water is poured. For Morrison, this was an opportunity to redesign a prosaic, everyday, household item and for Rowenta, it created an opportunity to reach new markets.