Saturday, 14 January 2017

Not So Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy: Philippe Starck’s Notorious Design

Philippe Starck’s questionable lemon squeezer, known as the Juicy Salif, has been around for over quarter of a century. His own website describes it as “the most controversial lemon-squeezer of the twentieth-century” and states that it is “a topic of conversation as much as a revealer of ourselves and our imagination”. It adds: “And, also, it presses lemons”, however in the 25 year long controversial wake of it being criticised for not actually being able to squeeze lemons, we cannot be sure if this is not an ironic comment. This means the squeezer’s popularity is clearly not based on its utilitarian functionality at all, but on its design. What I’d like to discuss here are the initial aesthetic and affective responses people have to the squeezer, in particular what it reminds them of. To do this I appealed to my Facebook friends and acquaintances over the space of one morning, 10th March 2016.

The first person to respond, said: “I like it because it looks like one of the monsters from War of the Worlds.” Almost everyone who responded agreed, even those who did not like it. I intentionally did not research this connection before beginning the exercise (even though that was also my reaction), as I did not want to influence others, nor find out in advance if this was a common response. Nevertheless, after reading people’s feedback I went online to see what others thought. If you type ‘war of the worlds’ + ‘juicy salif’ into google, you get approximately 14,300 returns and even John Lewis refers to the War of the Worlds Martians in their spec on the squeezer.

So, forget the Juicy Salif’s lack of functionality! People like it because they are connected to it through popular culture: it reminds them of stainless-steel-like invading Martians trapesing across the countryside - or, should I say, across their kitchen. For those whose connection is not from the recent 2005 Tom Cruise film, but is, rather, from the beautiful images on the gatefold LP of Jeff Wayne’s 1978 album (or even one of the older films), this may also be a nostalgic reaction. While cultural objects that are imbued with nostalgia are often criticised for engendering feelings of a harking back to a rose-tinted past or for a lost wholeness, it is a clever device for encoding within design and advertising. This particular retro domestic appliance - this “revealer of ourselves” - not only comes with an appealing aesthetic that would look great in your kitchen, it also brings with it your past - and re-presents it back to you!

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