As part of our spotlight on Ototo design we are offering for a limitedbtime only, their first ever product -the Poing-fruit bowl.
Ori Saidi and Danny Gassner met in 1999 at the Ascola School of Art and Design in Tel Aviv. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. While at school, they designed a spiral-shaped light fixture together, a project that would later become the prototype for one of Ototo's bestselling items: Poing fruit basket.
The ceramic heritage
Later that year, they teamed up with Monkey Business and started having the the production done abroad, leaving them with more time to focus on design. Yet, they still have a soft spot for ceramics, and now they are working again on ceramic products. "It is an interesting material to work with," they say, "it is a bit like baking: there are always surprises, depending on the temperature you use. Like a craftsman, you can design the item by hand and sense it physically".
Following the growing demand for their products, they moved the studio to Tel Aviv and began using new technologies and materials that allowed for neater, faster, more precise and more ordered design and production process. They especially like silicone, which combines cleanliness and bright colors with flexibility and design by hand. The Chinese factory where their products are made seemed to them at first glance like a huge candy store, they say.
Reality and imagination intertwined
Ototo's products constantly play on the seeming opposites of realism and absurd, functionality and humor. The realistic aspect involves what Danny calls "freezing the moment", as they did in the new Bubbles soapdish, which captures a singular "visual moment" and continues its magic long after it is gone.
Other Ototo products take things out of context, through the use of surprising, amusing elements for practical purposes, such as the 39-inch snails that crawl up to the rescue when you need a measuring tape.
Danny and Ori, like many of us, were told not to play with their food! when they were children. It seems they never really accepted that, and now, as designers, playing with food is how they inspire everyday life with unexpected fun. Take for example Jumpin' Jack, the salad server set that seems like a creature who drowned in the salad bowl.
Whereas Jack is an imaginary creature brought onto the dinner table, some of their other products make the opposite way: from the pastry shop to your pocket, with the Pretzel keyring, or from the pantry to the office space, as they did with the "canned" sardine paper clips. The paper clips were originally part of a series of products meant to bring together food items and office supplies, but were the only ones to "survive" all the way to the production line, at least at the moment. "We spend hours in front of the computer," they say, "why not make it more interesting?"
Caviar magnetic balls, a product from the sardine series that was eventually dropped.
The Bunny popsicles are another instance where magic meets food. But there's more than looks to this item: it also works like a charm
Danny's and Ori's little daughters tested the bunnies themselves, making sure it was fun to use – and to the relief of their parents, also helpful in maintaining the living room fairly clean
The silicone bottle stoppers, one of Ototo's first products, is still widely popular – for the same combination of looks and functionality. These colorful stoppers fit snugly into almost every bottle and keep it tightly sealed even while positioned horizontally in the refrigerator or on the wine rack.
With the Pillbox, Ori and Danny made the form become the function and vice versa.
The submarine experts
The pills that you need to carry with you – usually in a boring, unshapely dispenser – become the cool pill that helps you carry them.
There are cases, Danny and Ori say, when the design and production process is intuitive and "all the pieces fall into place" almost immediately.
Hang on, for example, an attempt at a lightweight bag hanger, proved at an instant to be a cool, elegant, multi-purpose accessory, its shape not only romantic but also very practical in terms of balance.
Other products require a longer process, but Danny and Ori like it just the same because of all they learn along the way.
Ototo's biggest bestseller, the yellow submarine tea infuser, was initially supposed to be made of stainless steel. When it turned out that it would be difficult to produce its minute details – such as the periscope – they almost gave up.
Luckily for tea lovers, they made another attempt with silicone, and produced one of the first silicone tea infusers on the market – and quite an iconic one, as it turned out to be. The move to silicone made the sub much more fun to use and also allowed for color, but it was only when they showed the prototype to their British distributor that yellow was chosen and the tribute to that Beatles movie born.
The yellow submarine still needed to undergo some changes in order to perform well underwater – for example, it needed more holes in order to sink effectively into the cup, which proved yet another design challenge.
Finally releasing the final product to the market, Ori and Danny thought it was just like any other product they made, and were surprised by its immense success.
They even received a large order from a company specializing in underwater research. Feeling quite confident underwater now, they designed another submarine, or more precisely a soapmarine.
Nessie - Ladle
Believe it or not, out of the deep pot comes Nessie!
Diving into your favourite soup or standing by ready to use, a legendary time in the kitchen is guaranteed.
Variety is fun
Ototo's cooperation with Monkey Business proved insightful for both sides, especially in all that commercial design entails: from production technologies through packaging to marketing and distribution. "You learn as you go", Ori Says. Back in 2004 their products were distributed only in Israel, where there were but few design stores at the time. Today, Ototo's products are found in 24 countries worldwide, and the Israeli market for designed household items has also grown considerably.
Ori and Danny say that their ideas stem from practical needs: products that exist and which they feel they can do better, with a humoristic twist, putting together things that don't naturally belong together; items they would like to get or to give as a present for loved ones.
Usually, one of them comes up with the beginning of an idea, and then they work on it together with Jenny Pokryvailo, the third designer in the studio. Each of them offers his or her free associations, until they formulate an idea that can be realized.
Ori and Danny like the fact that they get to work on so many different items at the same time – four to five new products every year. There is a constant flow of products in the studio, in different design phases and deriving from diverse sources of inspiration. This variety is what they like most about their work: "it gives us an intuitive, immediate satisfaction. Even we are sometimes surprised by what we eventually come up with".