Lastly, the toaster has been using wire heating elements since its creation. Admittedly, these wire filaments have moved on and it has been a huge success, but should we not look to find a more multifunctional, efficient and effective means to toast our food?
How did you address them?
We looked at products that effectively reduce their surface area, such as the folding bed or foldaway ironing board. We focused on other cooking appliances and what they were capable of cooking and how the design facilitated this. From this, we tried to find ways to tackle our problem.
What do you think the improvements are?
We minimised user interface; to switch the toaster on, just pull it down. There is a large simple knob with two ultimate settings; lightly toasted to very toasted, allowing you the variety in between. To cancel the toasting simply lift up the top. The same applies to checking on your toast – just lift up the top. We also have reduced the counter space usage to less than a third of the average small toaster. This design would also accommodate for anything you could want to toast. It has two non-stick hotplates to sandwich your preferred item, whether it’s a cheese baguette or a crumpet. We utilised a simple hinging system that allows the height between the plate to be varied, accommodating thicker foods such as crumpets or bagels.
For almost everyone the removal of crumbs is high on the list of toaster irritations, so we designed an exit for them. When upright, the toaster has an outlet or mouth into which the crumbs are funnelled. This also gave us the opportunity to add a bit of character and personality to the design; an element that makes it seem a little more friendly.
What other products designs – not necessarily related – influenced your redesign?
The George Foreman Grill offered the aspiration of what could/should be toastable. A multitude of Braun/Dieter Rams products influenced our thinking with interface and aesthetics. However, we tried to keep it light-hearted, introducing a tiny bit of drama into making some toast. We drew some ideals from the way Bang & Olufsen and Alessi’s products are executed.
What was the most challenging part of the redesign?
While reducing the footprint, we had attempted to have the bread/baked goods toast vertically to keep the counter space usage to a minimum. Unfortunately investigating this further revealed that the crumbs from the bread could easily prove to be a fire risk, so vertical toasting was scrapped. We wanted to keep the minimal use of space, the height adjustment between plates, and the multifaceted toasting ability. Combining all of these while maintaining a simple aesthetic was the greatest challenge.
How radically do your changes alter the design?
It no longer looks like a toaster, and it functions in a unique way due to its storage capabilities. I would suggest it is a fairly radical change.
How easy will this be to produce?
The concept is made from aluminium because it looks great. The finish can be perfected and it has useful heat conductance properties. Much like the aluminium foil used for baking, it will dissipate heat quickly. Is milling metals easier than injection moulding? No. Is the final product nicer? Definitely.
What new technologies, if any, would it require?
We have put a magnetic strip at the top of the plates to hold the top in place. Aside from this, most elements of the design can be found in other household kitchen appliances.
What has this process taught you?
A great deal about the riveting and lucrative world of toasters!
There is good reason for the current design that has held on for so long. Whether this concept is worthy of progression remains to be seen. I would love to see a new level of evolution for the toaster. The current design entrenchment is dull and boring but it does work, even if only in a limited fashion. Maybe that’s all we need – I hope not.