The man who asked these questions was Sam Farber, who had recently retired as an entrepreneur in the housewares industry. Sam, approaching seventy, and his wife Betsey, who had arthritis, found ordinary kitchen tools uncomfortable and difficult to use. He was thus inspired to create a line of cooking tools developed under the philosophy of Universal Design—creating products that are easy to use for the widest spectrum of users—including those with arthritis. Sam’s goal was design tools that were not only more comfortable, but that were developed with a keen attention to maximizing performance.
After hundreds of models, dozens of design iterations, and extensive research, OXO was born. In 1990, the first group of 15 OXO Good Grips kitchen tools was introduced to the U.S. market. These tools, complete with their pudgy black handles, set a new standard for the industry and raised the bar of consumer expectation by offering a comfortable, easy-to-use, high-performing alternative to the kitchen gadgets they had used for generations.
Each OXO tool is developed based on the concept of Universal Design (also known as Inclusive Design), a philosophy of making products that are easy-to-use by as many people as possible. The concept of Universal Design makes room for all users by taking as many needs as possible into consideration in the design process. For OXO, it means designing products that are used and love by young and old, male and female, left- and right-handed and many with special needs.
At OXO, living by Universal Design principles gives us an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. The goal of making products more usable forces us to first identify problems and inefficiencies of existing products (including our own), not only in terms of comfort, but performance as well. This gives us the foundation to meet our commitment of making only products that offer tangible, meaningful improvements.
For OXO, the principles of Universal Design mean a salad spinner that can be used with one hand; liquid measuring cups that can be read from above without bending over; kettles with whistle lids that open automatically when tipped to pour; and tools with pressure-absorbing, non-slip handles that make them more efficient. As OXO extends its design philosophy and process into even greater categories, we will continue to challenge norms and change behavior, while providing innovative consumer products that make everyday living easier.