multifunctional: /adj/ having or serving more than one utilitarian purpose.
The Problem: Shown at right is the utensil drawer in the kitchen of my college house. By no means do my roommates and I have a sophisticated collection of kitchen tools — we try to stick to the bare essentials — but somehow we have still managed to accumulate an entire drawer full of objects that are strewn about with no method or order involved. After contemplating this problem a bit further and observing what other peoples’ kitchen drawers and utensil caddies look like, it is apparent that no matter how sophisticated or lacking one’s set of kitchen tools may be, they still generally create some sort of overwhelming chaotic mess. In each of the photos on this page, you can see multiple turners, spoons, spatulas, and ladles. How much space could be saved if these different kitchen utensils — that are often used in conjunction with one another — could be unified into one object that takes up as much space as just one of your spatulas?
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It seems possible to choose several specific kitchen utensils that work well together and attempt to combine them in a manner that not only frees up space in your drawer â€” but can also somehow make cooking simpler. Instead of using a turner, a spoon, and perhaps even a spatula to perform a simple task like scrambling eggs â€” you could instead just use one tool to accomplish what those three do. This poses an interesting challenge in both the form of the tool itself and the ergonomics that will have to be involved with the handle design. It will be important to research and observe how different people use their various tools in the kitchen, and which ones would work more efficiently if they were to be combined. It would be really neat if the objects chosen to be united also happen to be ones that take up a substantial amount of space while being stored â€” so that combining them into one tool will have the added benefit of creating more storage space in a drawer or tool caddy.
The Research: This is Jan Franklin. Jan is a cook in a commercial kitchen where every day she prepares made-to-order sandwiches for about 60 people, and afterwards, cooks a large dinner for an equally large crowd. I asked Jan about her favorite kitchen utensils, and which ones she uses together, and all the hows and whys behind her methods. She has all types of uses for her different knives, but while she is preparing lunch, she explained to me how her metal spatula is really her “bread and butter” tool. She can move things around on the grill with it, she can press with it, she can cut most things with it, and she can stir stuff around with it. I asked her whether or not she would enjoy a tool that had a more unusual form than she was used to, but could accomplish a lot at once — similar to her spatula but with a wider breadth of functions. She was intrigued.
It’s my favorite tool; I use it all day, every day.
What Do You Use? This is Kathleen Munroe. Kathleen is a mother of one who does not cook large meals very often. This being said, her kitchen is still very complete in terms of utensils and tools. She owns Oxo products, Pampered Chef gadgets, attractive Williams Sonoma things, MoMa salt and pepper shakers, and even a set of Cutco knives. I asked Kathleen how she kept all of this stuff organized, and as I suspected, it was all stuck in a revolving utensil caddy that sits on her counter top. I then proceeded to discuss the possibility of condensing some of these tools into one product, and she was very interested in that.
She explained to me how it was still important to have a variety of utensils because some have very particular uses. But for everyday tasks and simple meals, she was excited about the prospect of only getting one tool out, only cleaning one tool, and then only having to put one tool away.
Sometimes I realize I am washing three different utensils after cooking something very simple.
The Concept: Moving forward from my research and also personal experimentation with cooking and interacting with the tools in my kitchen, I decided that the most efficient â€” and hopefully the most effective combination of objects â€” would be to take the flat things like spatulas and turners and somehow marry them to the large serving spoons, scoops, and ladles. Perhaps it would be nice if the object was double-sided so the direction in which you hold it dictates the functionality of the piece. Why do all of our kitchen tools only work in one direction?
Turner, Ladle, Spatula, Scoop. 6
What Can I Do?
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I have a built in spoon rest.
The Existing: Like any situation in the world of design, there has to be pre-existing precedents and archetypes to study and look to for inspiration. JosephJoseph makes the black UniTool that accomplishes a lot of what I was looking for in the ultimate kitchen tool, and Williams Sonoma manufactures a mixing tool with a really beautiful handle that is meant to scrape around an electric mixing bowl while avoiding the blades.
What is Not Effective? Through observation, experience, and research, I discovered the direction I wanted to pursue — partially by learning what I did not appreciate about what currently exists. I want to avoid being too gadgety like the objects that are made for camping; I instead would like to pursue a more streamlined aesthetic. I also do not especially like things that are too elaborately designed for just one specialized function, such as Oxo’s cherry pitter. In addition, I want to avoid an overly commercialized aesthetic, or a clumsy solution — what I design will look like it belongs in the home.
The Process: As with any design, The Spatuloon began as rough sketches that attempted to answer my questions. This then moved forward into physical models that really started to explore and experiment with the form of both the head and the handle of the object. What was discovered in the early wooden models was that the tool could in fact be a spoon in one direction, and a spatula-like utensil when turned upside down. Through a curvy, organic handle shape, one could comfortably and ergonomically use the tool effectively in two directions. The clay models helped to really begin to marry the spoon form to the flat head associated with the spatula. Of course, none of the prototypes were especially attractive or realistic.
The Exploration: Once the object truly began to take form in real life, it was time to bring it back into the imaginary. I made digital models, and through quick ideations and experiments, newer, more streamlined versions of the toolâ€™s head were born. Experimentations with the handle were also pushed further, and then I laser cut versions of these computer models out of plywood in a topographical fashion to again see what the tool felt like in real life.
The Justification: When you wake up, The Spatuloon will wake up with you. You go to open your utensil drawer in your kitchen to find that it is much less chaotic than it once was, and somehow far more empty. But it’s not as though you’ve been robbed; in fact, it’s almost as if you have been gifted. After creating real-live physical objects, the true functions of the utensil started to become apparent. A couple of the early ideas and concerns had to be eliminated, but the overall concept was still prevalent and things started to actually work the way I had in mind.
What am I really capable of?
At Breakfast: I can be your flexible mixing spoon while you’re scrambling eggs or mixing batter; then after a quick rinse, I can easily become your spatula for turning pancakes.
At Lunch: If you are the type who eats lunch at home, we can make grilled cheese sandwiches together. But if not, that’s ok, too, because I’ll help you spoon soup into a to-go thermos.
At Dinner: When you’re done working for the day, we can make stew and serve it to all of your friends using my ladle capabilities. Or, if it’s the weekend, I would love to go outside to grill hot dogs and hamburgers with you.
The Realization: After many iterations and prototypes, a final form was created and output using a 3D printer.
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It is everything you are familiar with, but nothing youâ€™ve ever seen before.
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This simple handle is then reminiscent of the tools from ancient times, which when combined with the new, streamlined, almost-futuristic head piece, creates The Spatuloon.
It was decided that instead of trying to create a fussy handle form that would satisfy ergonomics in two directions, the object would be fitted with a clean, comfortable, one-inch diameter, round, wooden dowel.
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Front View 1”
Spatula Side View
Spoon Side View 17
The Action: Scrambling eggs sequence.
Scooping celery sequence.
Stuffing bird sequence.
Serving pie sequence.
The Product: The object comes to you in this wooden box, and it can be stored here for long periods of time or when travelling to other peoplesâ€™ kitchens. However, for the most part, the Spatuloon will make a humble home hanging on your kitchen wall from a small nail.