What is the connection between a squid and a citrus juicer?
A pot plant and a toilet brush?
A parrot and a corkscrew?
A Viking helmet and a kettle?
There’s no obvious connection between any of these things. At least there wasn’t, until Italian manufacturer Alessi made another unusual connection – between mundane utensils and leading edge design.
Nobody had considered toilet brushes, pencil sharpeners, tea strainers, cheese graters or paper clip holders worthy of display. They were strictly functional items secreted in drawers or cupboards when not in use.
Alessi changed our attitude and our behaviour. They hired designers like Philippe Starck, Michael Graves and Stefano Giovannoni to turn everyday utensils into works of art.
The ugly items we kept hidden were replaced by sleek versions that we proudly displayed.
Some designs are so striking that we’re tempted not to use the item for its intended purpose.
Before Alessi, the idea of a citrus juicer, a salt and pepper set or a toilet brush being displayed in a museum would have been laughable.
Many of us are looking for an innovation that can make us famous. Or rich. Or both. We tend to look for a big idea. The next Facebook.
What Alessi showed us is that innovation – and fame and fortune – can start with something as simple as sharpening a pencil or timing an egg.
What these Alessi designs also teach us is the value of making random connections between 2 seemingly unrelated items.
Philippe Starck was eating squid in a restaurant. He started drawing bodies and tentacles. What he ended up designing was the Juicy Salif citrus juicer.
Everyday utensils became design objects. Ugly ducklings became beautiful swans.