Launched in the Fall of last year, Savora is a unique line of kitchen tools designed for both discerning home cooks and car enthusiasts alike. Launched as an in-house project for Lifetime Brands, Savora not only represents a new design language but also a new business approach for the company. Led by Sid Ramnarace, Vice President of Global Brand Integration and former GM and Ford designer, Savora's design is heavily influenced by the fluidity and sleek finishes normally associated with car exteriors.
At this year's International Home + Housewares Show, Savora added three new products to their popular foundational offering. A can opener, peeler and ice cream scoop are offered in eight colors along with their rotary grater, garlic press and oil mister. All of the kitchen tools have a nice weight and feel balanced in the hand with comfortable grip for control.
Core77 had an opportunity to speak with Sid about the business of launching a kitchenware line, the influence of his automobile design background and a peek into the design process for developing Savora.
Core77: You started out designing for the auto industry, including work on the fifth generation Ford Mustang. What got you inspired to launch a kitchenware line?
Sid Ramnarace: The inspiration was rooted in the realities that our parent company Lifetime Brands faces as a business. Our business model in kitchenwares had been predicated on two paths for growth; private label and licensing. We came to the realization that while those pillars are very important, we needed a third pillar that could more effectively take advantage of the resources and skills that exist under our roof—we needed an incubator that would serve as a launch pad for new, home-grown brands. By having a home grown brand, we'd have the ability to sell products across housewares categories around the world all with a unique point of view.
Now at the same time, we realized that we live in an age where food and food culture have never been as intertwined with our lives. There's a whole generation of people who have grown up watching Food Network and who routinely use Yelp or Open Table for recommendations on where to eat. The rise in awareness of what we eat, cross-pollination of foods from around the world, food blogs and celebrity chefs have become a part of our social fabric—think about this; every culture has events, holidays and celebrations where food is a core element; it's how we celebrate and share company. We wanted to be a part of that conversation—we wanted to develop a line of kitchen tools that was an extension of the passion we have for food. Just think of the cultural shift which recently occurred where a soap opera, once a dominant tool for marketing consumer packaged goods (CPGs) was bumped for a daytime talk/cooking show on a major network—the fact that a show like "The Chew" exists shows how closely we all align ourselves with food and food culture.
So really, the decision to launch this line was based on a convergence of ideas: the need we identified internally, and an opportunity we saw externally.
What are some of the design principles that you bring from auto design into your housewares line?
It's an approach in which one tries to balance the tangible and intangible benefits. The tangibles are rooted in classic product design—anthropometric studies, quiet observation to illuminate unmet needs and better solutions, and continuous study of competitive products and user reviews. Lifetime Brands is very good at this; they have been in the housewares business for over 50 years.
However, as an automobile designer, I find ways to give form to ideas and concepts that are sometimes very visceral, but somehow less tangible. Design and marketing coalesce into a type of narrative, where the elements of the design convey a concept or illicit an emotional reaction from the consumer. Human beings are not rational beings, and we make decisions everyday based on emotion; what color clothes to wear, which people to associate with and of course, what food we eat. Designing products which appeal to our emotional nature, which are arresting, and have visceral appeal was a core goal. The name is rooted in the term "savor," the way we want good flavors to linger on the tongue—and we designed a full concept that would facilitate enjoyment in cooking and entertaining.
From a marketing perspective, we conducted a series of archetypal studies, looking for an appealing narrative—a storyline that would carry through into every manifestation of the brand; the logo, the colors, the packaging, etc. I learned this from J Mays during my 10 years at Ford Motor Company who brought a distinct marketing-based approach to how cars were designed. His ability to communicate ideals through visual icons and metaphors were a great foundation to how I approach design. By finding visual clues that fit our archetype, and our communicated our ideals, we put in place a point of view that is noticeably different from other housewares lines.
At the onset of this program; we encouraged every designer to put down the mouse, and begin from an emotional place—by drawing. We looked at classic gesture drawings of the human body—and how the simplicity and efficiency of line captured the essence of motion. We examined why some drawings appear to emphasize tension; while others through "contrapposto" appear more relaxed. Our designers began by trying to capture a gesture for each item they were designing—until they had the minimum amount of information on the page to make a dramatic statement.
Some of the automotive design principles we used include a detailed approach to form development and surfacing; class "A" automotive surfacing is paramount in that industry because reflective surfaces are extremely revealing. We took this type of approach for Savora—where surface continuity was important and curvature conditions carried highlights across a body. The proportions of all of our items are based on cleanliness and expressiveness of side view profiles; which ultimately was a result of the early gesture sketches we did to define each item.
Can you share a little more about the inspiration behind the color palette and finishes for Savora kitchen tools?
The color palette was influenced by a convergence of inspiration from fashion cosmetics and automotive finishes. One of the beautiful things color does is to work as a secondary level of engagement. Viewers are intrigued by the shape, proportion and color of the items, and once the viewer is engaged, they begin to imagine the best color for them, either for self purchase or as an reflection on of oneself as a gift. It used to be that kitchen tools were all matched to one's kitchen or some large appliance a person owned, but increasingly we're seeing that people love the way the color helps these items work on their own as individual statements. Our color palettes are derived from trend analysis (Savora's Citron and Persimmon colors are based on recent Pantone Colors of the Year) but has been designed to facilitate different customer needs in the market. We've designed the palette with three levels; "traditional" (Crimson, Snow and Noir), "reach" (Indigo and Raven) and "trend" (Passion, Citron and Persimmon). We sell to larger retailers like Bloomingdale's and John Lewis in the UK whose larger orders usually include more "traditional" colors. Smaller boutiques and independents carry less inventory and have the ability to merchandise seasonal collections of color and can be more nimble and expressive with changing their palettes.
Our color palette also has the benefit of appealing to both men and women. Guy Fieri stopped by our booth in Chicago and picked up a Persimmon Rotary Grater from our stand. "Cool Man! I want one," he said to me. We briefly chatted about the item, when I told him that the color was just like "Ontario Orange." You could see the smile curl up on his face as he nodded that knowing look that car enthusiasts get; he appreciated the reference to an old Chevrolet Corvette color which inspired the hue. He fist bumped me and congratulated me on the design. He now has a new Persimmon Savora Rotary Grater in his kitchen.
Are you surprised at the strong response from consumers since you launched your line last Fall?
I'm happy to see that the seed we planted is bearing fruit. I'm sober about this and realize it will take a long time to fully mature. Finding new ways to engage people with a broader assortment of products will continue to reap rewards. The special part of this is that design has taken a leadership role here and, tempered with the good sense of our other colleagues within the company, will continue to nurture what we've begun.