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Design Classics

Good Grips Peeler

Designer: Sam Faber
Manufacturer: OXO

Sam Faber is the visionary behind a very simple and very obvious idea – making comfortable and easy to use home tools and gadgets. The retired founder of a successful housewares company, Mr. Faber one day observed his wife, Betsey, struggling with an ordinary potato peeler because of mild arthritis in her hands. This was his “eureka” moment. Ever the entrepreneur, he challenged the San Francisco-based firm Smart Design to create a series of kitchen tools that would be delightful to use because they were comfortable, beautiful and functional. He called his new company OXO – the name reads identically any way you look at it.

As part of their research, the OXO and Smart Design teams talked to consumers, chefs, retailers, and brought in Patricia Moore, a gerontologist who studied special-needs users. The results found their way into a signature innovation – a beefed-up handle using a soft, pressure-absorbing ribbed silicon rubber that gave the products their brand name, Good Grips. While OXO avoids the term “ergonomic,” its design philosophy does follow a concept called Universal Design, the idea that products should be easy to use and understand for people of all ages, both sexes and all physical abilities. Since the first collection was launched in 1990, OXO has added more than 650 products, including a salad spinner with a “brake” that can be used with one hand, measuring cups that can be read from the top down and a mango peeler that really does the job on that tricky fruit.

The joy of the OXO peeler is in how easy it is to hold. No sharp edges pushing into tender flesh. No slipping when wet. Sam Faber's innovation didn't come from asking what people wanted or how he could add more superficial glitz. Like most successful products, Good Grips asked and answered a more fundamental question – what problems do people have when they get up in the morning? By solving the mundane problem of user-unfriendly tools, Mr. Faber created a design icon. And this simple kitchen utensil is proof that not all great designs come with a hefty price tag.

National Post, May 4, 2006.