Your bottle opener is bourgeois: Progress or Novelty?

Posted by Rob Walker on February 25, 2008
Posted Under: "Good Design" (Tyranny of)

This is a new bottle opener.

It’s part of Alessi’s “Dream Factory.”

Core77 and Notcot — both sites I enjoy and respect — say “stylish,” and “beautiful.”

Murketing.com — also not a bad site, really, all things considered — wonders aloud: Seriously, why is this thing necessary? Who needs a high-design bottle opener, for crying out loud?

What do you say? Is this an example of progress and innovation, aesthetic or otherwise? Or is it mere taste-appeal novelty?

[Previous entries in the informal “Your X is bourgeois” series here and here.]

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Ha!

I’m with you. I thought the same thing when I saw those posts this morning.

Beautiful? Sure.

Pointless? Definitely.

#1 
Written By Mike Arauz on February 25th, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

Alessi has such a long and admirable history in the design world of supporting both the elegant and strange, I guess I find it hard to question their motives. To me it seems that greater society’s adoption of good design and awareness of environmental issues has made us much more critical of new products (which is good) but I think we should retain some room with regard to beauty for beauty’s sake.

#2 
Written By Zara Logue on February 25th, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

I don’t see why there should be a distinction between this and say a 500HP Ferrari or a designer dress; the basic purpose of a car is to get you from point A to point B, clothing is to protect the wearer from the elements. Of course they’re not necessary but it’s just another object that people can use to distinguish themselves from others.

#3 
Written By Nathan on February 25th, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

“I don’t see why there should be a distinction between this and say a 500HP Ferrari” …

Or an HP PSC 750 scanner/printer. There is really only one issue, since they’re marketing it as a bottle opener: Does it work? All other considerations — aesthetic, economic, societal — are ancillary. From a usability standpoint, my immediate concerns are size/storage (it seems too large to fit in the average drawer, at least not without difficulty, but leaving it out means another objet to wipe down) and actual functionality: _pushing down_ to open a bottle? Seems like a lot more mechanical effort than grabbing the bottle’s neck and flicking the wrist.

That said, it’s probably something I would temporarily swoon over were I to see it in person, as with many Alessi products.

#4 
Written By Braulio on February 25th, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

Anthony Ulwick’s outcome-drive innovation teaches product designers to look at very specific aspect of product innovation, one of which is “Is the market over served or under served.” I’m pretty sure we have enough designs for bottle openers and yet another one came to life. Just like the target market for Mont Blanc pens, there will always be someone ready to buy the expensive version of a $2 Walmart item. This industry spends considerable amount of time trying to differentiate along the emotional dimension – as well as they should, since many of these products have limited functions.

So my take on the matter is: Aesthetic-sure, Innovative-not really, taste appeal novelty-definitely

#5 
Written By Ben on February 26th, 2008 @ 3:29 am

Stainless steel? Where are we, Cuba?

Make one out of solid platinum and I might take a second look.

#6 
Written By John on February 26th, 2008 @ 6:48 am

Wow, thanks for all the great comments.

I do see differences between this and a Ferrari or a printer, namely I have a hard time believing there’s much functional difference — or even sort of emotional difference, like it somehow FEELS better to use this than a regular bottle opener.

But that’s perhaps subjective. And certainly guesswork, since I’ve never used it.

And please understand I’m not knocking the value-of-beauty argument, which is perfectly legit. I just sometimes wonder if it has limits or not.

I like Zara Logue’s remark: “greater society’s adoption of good design and awareness of environmental issues has made us much more critical of new products (which is good).” I think that’s right, or I hope that it’s right, and it’s certainly the spirit in which I raised the question.

Thanks again all.

#7 
Written By Rob Walker on February 26th, 2008 @ 11:49 am

This is part of the reason I detest it when sites that cater to whatever interest/category (in this case, design) feel compelled to post an entry if something from hot brand X (in this case, Alessi) comes out with something new. It’s as if the readership expects them to be at the ‘cutting edge of design’. If Alessi is cutting edge, anything new they come out with must be cutting edge design. Could be Core77 and Notcot (and at least a dozen or so other blogs) absolutely LOVE this bottle opener, but I am doubtful when I see this phenomenon again and again. I think blogger shouldn’t feel obligated to post something just because it’s new on the scene. On Reubenmiller we post stuff that could be from 2003, but really captured our interest and we thought, ‘hey if we haven’t seen this until now, could be our readers haven’t either – who cares if it’s “old news”.’

#8 
Written By Yael on February 26th, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

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