What are some impeccably designed, everyday, simple objects?
October 26, 2017 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I was just marvelling at the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. It's a pleasing shape, perfectly symmetrical, the spouts (two for better symmetry!) don't drip or leak, it's refillable and made of recyclable, sustainable glass, and its contents don't really expire or even need to be sealed. What other everyday things are so well-designed, fit for purpose, and pleasing to the eye? (NB: I'm not looking for things like iphones or Teslas or anything super fancy).
posted by stillmoving to Grab Bag (34 answers total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
The Kuhn Rikon is, hands down, among all the electric and manual ones I've seen, the best and easiest can opener I've ever used. And it opens other things, too, and looks nice. For a can opener.
posted by phunniemee at 11:57 AM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

i love corkscrews called 'waiter's friends' - the good ones have a hinge in the metal part. they work perfectly, and then fold up and fit in a pocket.
posted by entropone at 12:02 PM on October 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

I love this scraper, that's sold for scooping out pumpkins at Halloween. But the serration makes it a better ice cream scoop than most - in fact, it scoops just the right (manageable) amount of whatever food. Plus it's easy on the wrist, and I really like its shape.
posted by mmiddle at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2017

I recently bought a Leuchtturm 1917 notebook for journaling and it is so nice it makes me sigh every time I open it. The pages are the perfect weight (not so thin the ink bleeds through, not so thick you feel like you need to write Important Things in it) and nice for writing on, the binding/cover is hard-backed so it's sturdy, but not too heavy to carry around, it has an index in the front and an expandable pocket in the back. And it's the first time I've ever owned a dotted (instead of lined or grid) notebook, and I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it, but it turns out it's great for doing whatever I want - I can draw lines if I want them, but I don't have to, and the dots keep my writing in a straight line when that's what I want. The dots themselves are light enough to not be conspicuous, but dark enough so I can easily see them.

From my little bit of research, I know journals are something people have highly subjective/personal opinions on, so others may think another one is better. But for what it is, it is perfect. (they also sell paperback versions, and ones with lines and grids and plain paper)
posted by lunasol at 12:48 PM on October 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

My go-to answer here is always Zippo. Pleasant to operate, solid feel, satisfying noise. Made of metal that will last literal generations, user-refillable and easy to maintain. Not getting to use my Zippo every day is the only reason I regret quitting smoking.
posted by komara at 1:04 PM on October 26, 2017 [13 favorites]

It's far from beautiful, and chances are you don't need baby formula, but the Similac package is one of the most thoughtfully-designed things I've used in recent memory. It's easy to hold in one hand, the scoop snaps into the lid, there's a rubber lip for leveling/preventing spillage, and the safety seal is super sturdy yet easy to completely remove in one go. It really feels like the package designer thought of everything.

Tom Bihn bags and the aforementioned Leuchtturm notebooks have also impressed me with their design.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:16 PM on October 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I remember one of my design profs giving the example of the basic nail clipper as something that could have been made ridiculously complicated, with springs and hinges and blades and such, but instead is really quite elegant.
posted by btfreek at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Stokke's high chair would fit these criteria for me. It has a very simple design, is made almost entirely of wood and is designed to grow with the child so that it can be used for a long time.

The pour-over coffee filter holder probably fits too. Not necessarily a chemex, but any one made of ceramic or glass. There are plastic ones you can get that do the job just as well but just aren't as nice.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:42 PM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bodum Chambord French press coffee maker
Even simpler, the Chemex coffee maker
The paper clip
SKF self aligning bearings work even if your axle doesn't quite line up
The Victor Easy Set Mouse Trap
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 2:12 PM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have loved the Zyliss cheese grater for many years. It not only grates blocks of the finest Parm or Romano with unbelievable ease, but does a great job on chocolate and nuts too. A huge selling point is that the contraption unscrews to take apart for cleaning and can be reassembled either right-handed or left-handed as you need. Additionally, it's kinda sleek and modern. A winner at my house.
posted by strelitzia at 2:14 PM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

iirc the guy who designed the kikkoman soysauce bottle designs(/designed?) motorcycles.

My dad bought me an Opinel knife and i use it for everything. Eating apples, cutting off tags, taking out splinters, scraping off stickers (this thing is sharp!) etc. etc. - you can easily lock the blade to stay open too, and it has a nice weight to it. it bums me out that i can't take this thing everywhere.
posted by speakeasy at 2:27 PM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

In addition to the symmetry, if you block the top spout with your finger you can dispense individual drops by either shaking the bottle or briefly lifting your finger.

Maybe not so visually pleasing, but the British plug has a lot of elegant features.
posted by lucidium at 2:42 PM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

You might like Tom Scott's assessment that the British electric plug is a design classic.
posted by at at 2:43 PM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Jasper Morrison does a lot of thinking about this - his shop is full of objects he thinks are well-designed, and his & Naoto Fukasawa's Supernormal book, interview and exhibition might be interesting to you.
posted by sagc at 3:26 PM on October 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

posted by SemiSalt at 3:29 PM on October 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Single blade pocket knives, fountain pens, the Faber Castell 9000 pencils
posted by Verba Volant at 3:47 PM on October 26, 2017

Pens are as variable as notebooks when it comes to personal taste, but Muji gel ink pens are so... simple. It's the eidos of pen for me, and kind of magic. (and you can refill them! i told you: magic)
posted by halation at 4:14 PM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I love the H2O water bottle because the top is designed smooth and sloping so there are not nooks, raised designs or cranies that gather gouk like every other water bottle. The cap can be flipped with a thumb - one handed - and it fits into car cupholders. The handle is also perfectly placed and can loop around my thumb snugly so I can also carry something in my hand as well. Handle also has no cranies, easy to stay clean. The handle is balanced so if I am looping it on my thumb so I can carry other things with my hand it does not tip enough to spill anything if the cap isn't tight. If the cap is down it is secure and doesn't leak.
posted by cda at 5:15 PM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I think of things in this category, I think of musical instruments.
Most instruments, as they have matured, have been improved piecemeal. There are exceptions to this - violins and violas are an ergonomic nightmare as they are played today, for example.
I think of my Bach trumpet. It is a professional grade instrument that I've actively played for 35 years. Inn that time, it's had few parts that have worn out and all of them cost pennies. It is comfortable to hold, well balanced, has very good tone suitable for a variety of music styles and has decent intonation (all trumpets inherently are out of tune because of physics) and the notes that are somewhat out are easy to correct.
posted by plinth at 5:40 PM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

My Zefal bike pump, this is a new one, mine's circa 1990 and very battered. Nice smooth, grippable barrel, VERY rugged, field-maintainable and will accept hand-cut washers and other ad-hoc fixes, and you can beat chasing dogs with them.
posted by unearthed at 5:48 PM on October 26, 2017

Shiv-style staple removers are so much better than any alternatives.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:43 PM on October 26, 2017

+1 as well to waiters' friends and to Similac packaging.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:43 PM on October 26, 2017

Fiestaware! Pleasing deco lines, super sturdy and well made, and pieces fit together in interesting and unexpected ways: trivet works as a lid for the gusto bowl, bouillon bowls fit pleasingly in bread trays and napkin trays, gravy boats and au gratin dishes fit nicely in platters, omni trays fit perfectly in the pizza tray, etc. Oh and bread made in the loaf pan fits perfectly on the bread tray of course.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:07 PM on October 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've always loved these old coat hooks made from a single piece of wire.
posted by BoscosMom at 8:17 PM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

This doesn't answer your question but you might like this short article about the story behind the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle.
posted by flora at 8:36 PM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

"Seki Edge" nail clippers. They're like $10, and sufficiently better than anything else I've ever seen or heard of in that admittedly niche category.

For the folks nthing the Waiter's Friends, the ones you want are "double-hinged". $10 is again a solid price point for about as good as they get.
posted by talldean at 9:57 PM on October 26, 2017

The Kuhn Rikon is, hands down, among all the electric and manual ones I've seen, the best and easiest can opener I've ever used.

On board for this. It's also become the bottle-opener I reach for; comfortable and good leverage. The curved beak on the bottle-opener end is perfectly designed for opening pull-tab cans, too. It's a very pleasing tool.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:05 AM on October 27, 2017

Something I grew up with - the Miner's Lunchbox. Every one of my relatives who worked in the mines had one of these. Deceptively simple design but absolutely perfect for its specific task. You can even use them to sit on when you're eating your sandwich at the work site!
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:16 PM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dietz lanterns. Opinel knives. P-38 can openers. Aladdin oil lamps. MSR and ancient Coleman stoves.
posted by jet_silver at 9:27 PM on October 27, 2017

The David's Tea Perfect Tea Infuser Is the one I use every day. The mesh is small enough not to let fine leaves through. It's easy to use because it's so deep and just pops into the mouth of any mug. Comes with a lid that doubles as a coaster for your wet Infuser. It's also easy to clean.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:10 PM on October 27, 2017

Liquid soap dispensers that you can use with one hand - push the front of the pump down, rather than the whole thing. Like this one or maybe this one.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:00 AM on October 28, 2017

Nting the Waiter's Friend. That knock offs without the vital second hinge that cost 10% less are manufactured in the millions makes it clear just how terrible markets are at making efficient choices. That lever-and-ring cork-screws continue to exist make me question the future of mankind. But, the original version sure is great.

The Yafa Executive Pencil is my most beloved and least useful example. It was a $17 mechanical pencil with a bullet-proof advance mechanism. It takes standard-diameter, 1.5-inch long erasers in an extendable slide mechanism, has a trivially rectractable pointy-bit, is easy to clean, and has perfect balance. If you're using them for something other than writing equations, there's a subtle, built-in hardness-labeling system to distinguish between different leads. I've had one for more than twenty years and it still works perfectly despite having all the paint near the finger bits worn away down to the metal. Sadly, they can't be purchased any longer.

Among specialized lab equipment, TDI's top line tweezers are absolutely fantastic. The difference between a well-balanced and perfectly aligned tweezer and a less carefully designed tweezer is truly astonishing. Unlike complicated hardware where good design means, "this was the right part or type of interface to use," and architectural designs where good design means, "this looks cool but serves exactly the same function as the alternatives," making a tweezer that's better than any other tweezer seems like real magic. But I can name at least four examples from TDI that are the perfect example of their category. (I'd love to meet their designers.)
posted by eotvos at 11:47 AM on October 28, 2017

I'm chiming in late here as always - I hope that's ok to mention to tell a story about an object that isn't for sale anymore but you could find on EBay.

Back in 2004 I stopped into a Starbucks and It was the "Feng Shui" line. I bought a red Love Mug and used it every day for about 5 years. They were all one color with one word on them: Red for Love, Purple for Prosperity and Green for Friends.

The mugs are so perfect in every way for me. They hold just enough to drink whilst hot but not so much that the liquid gets cold before you can drink it. The handles are perfect in that you can get just the right amount of fingers in there - not too small, not too big. (Mugs with tiny handles are a pet peeve of mine.) These are pleasantly wide at the top so as to really enjoy the bouquet of the coffee or tea. They bulb in the middle and then taper down quiet beautifully at the bottom. I can't begin to explain why this mug hits my brain's super sweet spot suffice it to say it's all extremely pleasing to me on so many levels. I'm not usually one who needs X exact product, it's just this one thing.

I didn't realize how much I actually loved this mug until mine broke after 5 years and I suffered for awhile with mugs that just didn't cut the mustard. I was completely bereft until - duh - I thought of EBAY!

I actually spent the next 6-7 year or so with an EBay Alert for Starbucks Fung Shui Mugs. Taking my time to find the cheaper ones. ($19.95 + $15 Shipping, umm... no!) It also helped that I was using a sniping service to bid in the last 5 seconds and thus avoid bidding wars or bidding from an emotional place.

I amassed what is hopefully a life time supply - about 20 of them! Ah, happiness is the right mug for my morning cuppa.
posted by crayon at 11:11 AM on October 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

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