Innovation Loves Company
At first glance you might mistake it for a futuristic kung-fu or Klingon
weapon. Or a prop from the movie Tron. But it's non of those exotic things.
It is something much more commonplace: a pizza cutter. But the designer
forgot that it was a common object and designed a tool as beautiful to
behold as it is to hold. Introducing the Pitzo, a revolutionary pizza cutter with
an iconic design that makes it easier to cut pizza. The Pitzo was dreamed
up by an inventor, developed and licensed by Trident Design, LLC and
brought to market by two companies: Lifetime Brands and RÖSLE. It's now
sold at places like Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Here's the story of how it was done:
The Pitzo Pizza Cutter was conceived in 2009 by Jessica Moreland, an industrial designer working at Trident Design, LLC, a product design and invention development lab based in Columbus, OH. Jessica, an Akron, OH native currently working towards her Industrial Design Master's Degree at the Ohio State University, had been working at Trident since her graduation from OSU's highly regarded design program in 2008. While on a scouting trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond with Chris Hawker, president of Trident, it was noted that the pizza cutter was a product that could use some fresh eyes. This idea, along with about 20 others, was brought back to the office to mull over.Chapter 2: Birth of the project
A few days later, Jessica showed up at work excited, anxious to show off something she'd thought of. Out of her bag came a drawing that was the genesis of the Pitzo design: a hubless blade pizza cutter. She explained the benefits it would provide: improved downward force due to the lack of a stick handle, a better grip, and a way cool look. Countless concept cars and bikes feature hubless (spokeless, really) wheel designs, but in these applications they are really just eye-catching gimmicks, and totally impractical for production. Therefore, they never make it to market. Here was an opportunity to bring this cool aesthetic into reality, and with plenty of functional justification. Hawker was immediately sold and agreed to put the resources of the company behind her concept and help her license it.Chapter 3: Design of the product
The development process started with research: a formal patent search was conducted, along with a detailed market survey. While some designs were found that were closer than anyone knew about, the patent attorney said there was still room. A five step development process followed, where the original rough sketch was transformed into detailed design for the product, working out the look of the handle and all the inner workings and dimensions so a prototype could be made and the function proven. The greatest challenge was achieving a balance among the height of the blade, the diameter of the blade, the size of the handle opening, and the overall dimension. Each adjustment to a dimension forced 4 others. Many rounds of trial and error ensued. A final prototype was produced that worked as predicted, looked awesome, and was even cooler to use than expected.Chapter 4: Preparing the presentation and the Intellectual Property
Beautiful prototype in hand, attention was turned to creating a memorable brand and “almost real” marketing materials. The happy and catchy name "Pitzo!" was chosen as a nod to its "O" shaped design. A professional logo was created (which was later published in Logo Lounge, an annual collection of logos by "leading designers"), and a sell sheet to explain the features. In addition, Trident created a CG animation of the Pitzo extolling its virtues and showing off the product's striking personality. A patent attorney was engaged to draft a utility patent application and as soon as it was filed the stage was set for Trident's expert licensing team to get to work.Chapter 5: Launching the Licensing campaign and closing the deals
At the beginning of the licensing process, the question was asked: what would be the best possible outcome, even if it was unlikely? The answer, it was decided, was if two licenses could be secured, one that was high-end, and likely European, and one that focused on a lower-cost model for the broader (and much bigger) market. This was an unusual arrangement and it is difficult to get companies to agree to share, but the decision was made to take the risk of alienating a potential partner by pushing for it and focusing on enlightened companies. It took some clever negotiating, but amazingly, the ideal partner that was approached for each role agreed! The key was explaining to each that the other was not their competitor (due to pricing differences) and that innovation loves company: i.e. the attention one gets would help the other. The high-end partner, RÖsle is a 100+ year old company based in Bavaria, Germany that is known for making the highest-end stainless steel kitchen gadgets in the world. The mass-appeal partner, Lifetime Brands, is the largest manufacturer of kitchen gadgets in the world, selling under 32 brands including Farberware, Pedrini, Kitchenaid, and many more. The Pitzo was going to be made real by the biggest AND the best in the world.Chapter 6: Commercialization so far
If you have never been witness to product commercialization before, most newbies are amazed by how long the next part takes. From idea to store shelves takes a long time. Once you've licensed an invention, designs need to be engineered, molds need to be made, molds need to be tweaked, samples have to be approved and presented, purchase decisions have to be made (often a year in advance at major retailers), inventory has to be produced and shipped and distributed and then finally put on shelves. All these thing take time. But once the day finally arrives, it is one exciting moment. For the Pitzo, that moment has finally arrived for both versions. It is now on the market, getting into its first few stores (Wal-Mart!), and starting to get noticed, having recently won the prestigious RedDot design award and made the rounds of the blogs. Buy your very own Pitzo here and enjoy this revolutionary design.