Peeling Away the Layers of Research

Peeling Away the Layers of Research

01.23.12 | By Kate Connors

Over the weekend, I watched a documentary called Objectified, about industrial design and the people who work in the field.

Intended to make us think about the world around us and the products that fill it, the film was interesting and well-made. One segment was especially note-worthy: the vegetable peeler.

A designer told the story of a friend whose arthritic wife could no longer peel vegetables using the old-fashioned metal peeler - the type that made my childhood palms feel like they were ready to bleed when I helped my mother make a pie. As he noted, humans had used the same peeler for decades.

The designer went through a series of prototypes, playing with larger handles and softer substances. Inspired by a bicycle handle, the peeler we now know as the OXO Good Grip was born.

I imagine that most viewers of this documentary were flabbergasted - imagine 20 or more prototypes for one object!

However, I could only step into my PhRMA shoes, thinking "People will peel potatoes and appreciate the advances of a larger, rubber handle - but they'll take a prescription medicine without really contemplating where it comes from" (yes, I had this thought - I'm not very much fun at dinner parties, I'm afraid).

Tens of prototypes? Try thousands. Ten to fifteen years and more than $1 billion.

I hate to sound cynical - the movie is definitely worth watching. And I'm glad I can make an apple pie without pain. But while the fruits of design help make life easier, the fruits of research can save lives.

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