Design News Editor-in-Chief Karen Field wrote an article about how product a product feels in the consumer’s hand and its affect on the perception of quality. She tells the story of reader who sent in a $20 pizza cutter with an aluminum handle that corroded after he put it through the dishwasher. Karen originally posted about this in her “Made By Monkeys” blog where a long discussion ensues about who’s fault is it that this relatively expensive pizza cutter proved poorly designed for a relatively predictable use case (throwing it into the dishwasher). No, the product wasn’t labeled “dishwasher safe”, but is that really his fault? In Karen’s article, she discusses why consumers would pay a premium for a product because of its mass.
So, what does it mean to the consumer regarding perceived value (“boy, this sure feels like a quality pizza cutter”) and the real quality of the design (“Hey! My pizza cutter is corroded!”)? How do we as designers first communicate this message of quality, and then deliver on that promise? What responsibility do we need to take with regards to design vs the materials and processes?
Fortunately, there is a happy ending to our story. (We all like happy endings, right?) The disgruntled consumer received a letter from Williams-Sonoma and a brand new pizza cutter from the manufacturer… with a polypropylene handle.