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A good grip on the market

For many of us, the expected practice when eating is to hold our forks in our left hand and our knives in the right.

 The handles of the cutlery are usually positioned in the palm of the hands with the index finger lying along the length. Cutlery is seen as decorative or functional, and the design gives little consideration to different grip styles or dexterity. Hardanger Bestikk looked afresh at this market and made ‘Design for All’ a priority. Its highly acclaimed Tuva cutlery range is growing from strength to strength in both Norway and Sweden.

"We've always tried to be innovative, in terms of technology, aesthetics and function," says Rune Leikvoll, owner and managing director of Hardanger Bestikk.

"Universal design done properly means that the cutlery is suitable for the vast majority of people, irrespective of whether they have large or small hands, joint problems or perhaps tremble a little. Tuva meets these challenges with special modifications that bring something positive to the cutlery for the person on the street, albeit invisibly."

Defining the task

Industrial designer Per Finne explains that, in Tuva, they have brought together their previous experience of designing cutlery with some hands-on research and observation looking at how people actually eat.

"Alongside everything else, it's good grip that's important," says Per. "Given that there was a focus on universal design, the challenge lay in producing cutlery that could accommodate dozens of different types of grip. The more flexible we made the cutlery, the better we had met the brief."

He explains that he started by sketching in pencil, creating a large number of designs that could be tested with people of different ages. They then kept working on the designs that proved most popular.

"Having a fairly large handle is important in providing good grip for everyone. You also need to be able to move the grip backwards and still have good control, a requirement that is satisfied by having the balance point a relatively long way back," he explains.

Special technology

Tuva does not weigh more than other cutlery, although it has a larger handle and is actually 1.5 cm longer than typical cutlery to suit the larger size of modern-day plates. The cutlery uses hollow-handle technology, which reduces both material consumption and the weight.

The knife is produced in three parts, and the fork and spoon in two. While other cutlery using equivalent technology often place a small weight in the handle, most pieces in the Tuva range have different thicknesses of steel in the handle to keep the weight down and provide optimum balance.

Per explains that during the process they created prototypes to try out with consumers. Children, young adults, people with full hand strength but using different grips, people with reduced dexterity, those with hand tremor and older people, all tried eating with the new designs. They were also interested in testing the curve of bowls on the spoon and the length of the prongs on the fork. All feedback and insights fed into the modifications that were made prior to a second round of testing.

Problem into opportunity

The exterior design in particular became a challenge as a key driving force was universal design and the full set of cutlery comprises 18 pieces.

"We're talking about several types of knives, forks and spoons," says Per, listing the dinner knife and fork, butter knife, cake fork, salad set, tea spoon and long coffee spoon amongst specialist items. He explains that welding curves and bends in the cutlery is a challenge in purely technical terms as it requires the use of special tools and techniques.

"Nevertheless, we've chosen to round off the edge of the cutlery. This has a positive impact on the grip by making it easier to lift the cutlery from the table," he explains. He says that they were keen to give the cutlery a timeless design, and still reduce material consumption. The aim was to create everyday artefacts that were beautiful and easy to use.

The gift of choice

Tuva has become one of the most bought cutlery designs both in Norway and in Sweden. It sold more than 100% over initial estimates during launch year 2009 and has been a bestseller since then with a solid position in the market. People often buy the cutlery as a wedding present, as a house-warming gift, but also for themselves. It is seen as attractive, timeless, good to use and something that can be handed down in the family.

"It's really gone from strength to strength, with Tuva's sales figures almost doubling each year. Design is important to Hardanger Bestikk. We believe in quality as a brand and want to create beautiful, innovative products that are functional for the largest possible number of people," says Rune Leikvoll. Per Finne adds that design is largely a question of finding the best possible compromise between form, technology and function. "We try to think differently," he says. "If you want to get ahead, you have to set your sights accordingly."

PUBLISHED 17.10.2011 15:00

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