Form vs. Function

My friend Courtney posted here a while back about preferring function to form – I believe we were discussing tea mugs.  Her comment immediately came to mind when I ran across a new “design” for tea bags… Hanger teas.    They look like little “tea shirts” (get it?) on hangers.  

They would come packaged like this: 

And they hang on your cup thus:

 Now.  I’m all for cute and original ideas.  I adore cute and original.  I would absolutely support cute and original.  But what an incredible waste of space and materials in that packaging!  Next, if you’re going to design something, you must have at least a basic understanding of the function of what you’re designing!  

The best way to steep tea is loose so the leaves can open/expand as much as possible. When steeping loose tea and straining is not practical, one uses a tea bag. There are indeed tea snobs (just like with everything else…..like yarn.  *ahem*) who feel that the tea used in tea bags is so inferior that they won’t drink it.  The tea that is used in tea bags has an industry name—it is called fannings or “dust” and is usually the waste product produced from the sorting of higher quality loose leaf tea, although this certainly is not true for all brands of tea, especially in the case of many specialty, high quality teas now available in bag form.

The best tea bag design is one that allows the tea to expand as much as possible within the confines of the bag. One main problem with this design is that the tea shirt looks narrow and therefore won’t allow much expansion of the leaves.   Another problem is that the hanger anchors the bag to the side of the cup which further limits one side of the bag from expanding and allowing the leaves to interact with the water.

I just feel that this is such a waste of creative energy!  What good is a clever tea wrapper if the quality of the tea is compromised?  

I had to see where this came from, and my search led me to Yanko Design.  Their intro:

 Yanko Design is a web magazine dedicated to introducing the best modern international design, covering from industrial design, concepts, technology, interior design, architecture, exhibition and fashion. It’s about the cutting edge and the classic, the new and the rediscovered. It’s all about the best.

 I entered a wild world and started to wander around.  Among many other things, I found a designed-to-be-huggable coffee grinder – based on the premise that we should share more love and positive energy with our appliances.  (I’m serious here…)  I found 5-minute candles that come in a matchbook, floors that light up, a talkative table.  Also some high tech napkins that you doodle on and your doodles get transmitted to the napkin holder which is a mini PC in disguise. Don’t use these to wipe up stains.   But since I was on a tea-related quest, I forced myself to abandon these interesting distractions and continued on to items for tea.  

Then I found the Turtle tea kettle:

This is how the kettle works:

Add the loose tealeaves to the glass container and pop the cap on it and load it into the water filled kettle. Place your turtle kettle on the stove, set the timer on the cap, and wait for the ring. The glass container has very small machined holes so that the tea can be infused properly without moving about in the water. So after when you pour your tea to drink it, you won’t be sucking in the bits of tea leaves.

To boil water simply slap on the cap without plugging in the glass container and wait for the whistle to sound.

Made from ceramic, the kettle features a side window that lets you keep a check on the water levels of the container. The handle and timer cap is made out of a heat resistant phenolic plastic, making them easy to handle when hot.

A cute, new way to brew the cuppa!

 OK, another designer who has missed the point entirely.  You do not put tea leaves into cold water and then boil it.  You add hot water to the tea leaves.  Different temperatures for different kinds of tea.  Black tea, for example, requires a higher temperature than green tea leaves, which would be damaged by the hotter water.  The temperature will have as large an effect on the final flavor as the type of tea used.  Many of the active substances in tea do not develop at lower temperatures.   Basic, basic information.  Design FAIL. 

I also discovered the Creativi*tea Kettle:

 

A badass attempt at poetry, but anyways the point is, the Creativi*tea Kettle is an effort to hype up the mundane chore of making tea and adding color to the kettle by including the temperature-sensitive aspect to it.
Cold = darker shade of red; Hot = increasingly luminescent red.

 Well, ignoring the insulting comment that making tea is a mundane chore that needs to be hyped up, this isn’t bad.  

 There was also a pretty Avestruz Tea Set.  I like this design.  

Function over form.  Form is important.  I love art, and would love to surround myself with more of it.   The idea of integrating art into everyday routine objects is a wonderful treat for the soul.  But if those objects can’t do the job they’re meant to do properly, then they’re out.  For me, at least.   What do you think?  What other examples come to mind?

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20 Responses to “Form vs. Function”

  1. Jersey Jessie Says:

    The tea shirts are so funny but stupid. I assume that the hangers are plastic – another stupid idea for boiling water. Adds to the junk in the environment and coats your lungs with particulates. Good move designer!

  2. Katerina Says:

    I never knew all that about tea, but it is truly amazing how many designers have put no thought into what they are designing.
    My latest irk… baby hats (I have a new little one) with the tag on the inside of the hat – right where it would scratch/bother their little heads!
    With all the new ‘tagless’ shirts/underwear etc. out there, can’t they make tagless baby items!? And these were from Gerber… you think they would have some insight…
    I just knit him one instead 😉

  3. TeaHawk Says:

    Nice post~ though a *real* tea snob would say the best tea bags don’t exist in the first place!

    I’m guessing the teabags are a portfolio piece? Just something for the designer to show off to potential clients, not something that ever would get made. At least I hope the client would ask for a pyramid design if they’re putting real tea in the things.

    Have you ever seen Muji? They’re a Japanese homegoods store that hires top designers for anonymous, perfect designs. So you end up not with A teapot but THE teapot. Kind of like Ikea, function = form.

    • eclecticitee Says:

      Even in a portfolio, as a client I would look for understanding of the product as well as creativity.

  4. EJ Says:

    More than I want to know about bad design – thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Wehaf Says:

    Another vote here for “cute but stupid”. Maybe they’d be good gag gifts?

  6. Carla Says:

    I really like the last one. The tea shirts are funny but definitely not a good idea.

    • eclecticitee Says:

      Isn’t that last set pretty? I’m wondering how comfortable the cups are to hold onto, they look very sturdy.

  7. Knittingdancer (Ravelry) Says:

    The tea shirts are cute but not very practical.

  8. Courtney Says:

    Oh, wow. Those tea bag hangers are crazy. Personally I wouldn’t put plastic anywhere near boiling water, but that’s just me. I’ll take my chatsford teapot and infuser and a plain mug any day for my upton teas!

    Actually, I’m currently coveting a pretty little Beehouse teapot with stainless steel mesh infuser. Have you seen them? I think they’re stylish.

    • eclecticitee Says:

      Had to go look them up, they’re adorable! Almost too pretty to knit a cozy and cover them up… 😀

  9. Little Miss S. Says:

    Funny funny post – not in a hilarious way, but just that I had thought the same when I saw those tee hangers.

  10. Katerina Says:

    BTW, I did have fun knitting him his hat – and I made matching mittens! (dont’ even get me started on pre-fab kids mittens….)

    • eclecticitee Says:

      I always liked those kid’s mittens that were connected by the string that went up your sleeve, across the back of the neck and down the other sleeve. I think the idea was that way kids wouldn’t lose one half of a set. I just remember that we could run up, pull on a mitten and the kid would smack himself in the face with the other.

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