Housewares Design Awards

2004 Best in Category: Kitchen Electrics


Chef’sChoice VariTilt Gourmet Food Slicer

“Do you write the music first or the verse?” is how Edgecraft Corp. President Sam Weiner described the interplay between design and function that occurs during product development.

“The reality is, most successful songwriters have to follow an iterative process; it has to go back and forth,” he said.

“It is the same thing with product design. Sometimes design comes first. Sometimes function. You can’t finish one without paying attention to the other along the way.

“When you prematurely force one over the other, you have to make compromises that effect both form and function. Going back and forth harmoniously between the two is how you win.”

Edgecraft, based here, is best known for its upscale, professional-quality Chef’sChoice electric knife sharpeners and food-slicing equipment. The company also offers cooking appliances.

Edgecraft’s Chef’sChoice VariTilt Food Slicer won the Best in Category honors in kitchen electrics at the first-annual Housewares Design Awards.

To stimulate the exchange between design and function, it is not unusual at Edgecraft for an industrial designer to sit down with an engineer.

“The designer may say, ‘Can you move the screw hole over to other side?’ And the engineer will say, ‘I can, but it will add $2 to the product.’ All heads have to be there,” Weiner said.

At Edgecraft, design truly is a company affair. Everyone is involved, from engineers to senior-level executives to, of course, the designers themselves.

“Just today,” Weiner related, “we were arguing over the radius of one electric sharpener: Should it be one-eighth of an inch or three-sixteenths of an inch? You had four people arguing the point back and forth.”

Weiner noted that since most of Edgecraft’s products are made in U.S., various members of the Edgecraft team can easily have their hands in all aspects of design during the manufacturing and development process. This, he added, definitely represents an advantage over many of Edgecraft’s competitors, who are increasingly turning to Far East factories for manufacturing needs.

Design is a major influence in terms of how consumers will perceive the company itself, Weiner noted.

“Any time a product is before a customer, the product and what goes with it, such as the box it comes in, it represents the company’s face,” Weiner said. “We want to make sure the company and its products are properly represented to the consumer.”

Design also is used to bring continuity to Edgecraft’s products. “We feel that’s very important for brand recognition,” Weiner said.

“If you change the style every year based on what is hot, you don’t give consumers the opportunity to recognize your form or your function.”

While some aspects of Edgecraft’s designs may change from year to year, essential characteristics do not in order to provide this continuity.

Edgecraft’s electric sharpeners, for example, have a certain aspect ratio regarding height to width to depth that will not change.

Durability also is an important theme running through Edgecraft’s design philosophy. “We build products that last for years,” Weiner said. “So we want the design to be durable, too. The style can’t come and go in a year. The product will sit on a consumer’s countertop for many years. We want our customer to always be proud of our product.”

For retailers seeking to differentiate themselves from the competition, design can be an important part of that strategy.

“Retail in general thrives on newness: novelty, new designs, new colors,” Weiner said. “We work with our retailers on this. Sometimes retailers are invited to give their thoughts on design. That is a selective process.”

In any case, Weiner said, the company is well-versed regarding what the various channels of retail are seeking, and Edgecraft always maintains close relationships with its retail customers.

Some retailers, particularly larger retailers, have begun designing their own products, which may not always be as beneficial as it may seem. There is a dev

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