Angles and shapes. Happiness and psychology. Materials and colors. And why the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle has become so popular.1-Minute NomNom
For many of us, when we think of soy sauce, we think of the soy sauce bottle by Kikkoman. The tear drop shape of this bottle has become synonymous with soy sauce and its use in Asian cuisines (read why soy sauce goes well with our food in the 1-Minute NomNom “Once you meat me, you will be soy turned on“).
It is even included in the collections of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Design Zentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen (in Essen, Germany, and considered one of the “oldest and most highly reputed design institutions worldwide”).
Since 1961 when it was first designed, three hundred million of these bottles have been sold worldwide. But that is not the reason it is a design classic. The soy sauce bottle is a design classic because of the following touches:
1) It has a broader bottom that tapers at the neck, giving it the size and shape comfortable to hold
2) The small spout means pouring can be controlled, even by the drop
4) Its minimalist aesthetic (just a simple tear drop shape), and imperial red cap makes it an elegant addition to the dining table
5) The spout is based on an inverted tea-spout and has an “inward angle on the tip” to prevent dripping onto the table (as the soy sauce flows back into the spout when the bottle is set upright after pouring)
How did the soy sauce bottle come to have such qualities? The bottle’s designer, Kenji Ekuan, “devoted his life to crafting objects that would be lovingly used, not just coveted or gawked at“. He wanted to be a “maker of everyday things” who would democratize “goods and beauty, to make them accessible for everyone”.
He summed up his design:
“Design to me has always meant making people happy. Happy in the sense of creating items that provide comfort, convenience, function, aesthetics and ethics. I used to do a lot of research, fieldwork, wanting to understand the psychology of human needs and response.”
With design sensibilities like these, it is no coincidence that the soy sauce bottle became what it is: a thoughtful blending of shapes, angles, materials, colors, function, human psychology and beauty.
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