Designs That We Take for Granted
The death of Kenji Ekuan, a Japanese monk-turned-industrial designer, last week is reason to recall his most iconic design — the ubiquitous red-capped Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. Omnipresent in Japanese restaurants and in most Japanese homes worldwide since it was introduced in 1961, the soy sauce dispenser is as much a dining table fixture as salt-and-pepper shakers. Globally, more than 300 million bottles have been sold to date. The teardrop-shaped bottle with a red plastic cap is synonymous with soy sauce. Ekuan reported that it took him three years and more than 100 prototypes to come up with the smooth contoured glass form that could be held firmly between two fingers and had a screw-on cap that integrated into its design a double-sided dripless spout. The choice of clear glass, too, made it possible to see how much soy sauce was still inside without unscrewing the cap. As with so many commonplace objects that we take for granted, Ekuan’s dispenser design deserves to be considered more closely and appreciated for its simple elegance and intuitive functionality.