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Earl Tupper, the inventor and designer of Tupperware, broke a few rules of production. Breaking a single ‘rule’ of production can sometimes lead to new formal solutions as seen with Thonet. Tupper did just that by forming a large undercut at the top of his bowls. Tupper allowed two pieces of plastic to flex and join, forming an airtight seal of great strength. The product was made possible by the confluence of two factors: the development of polyethylene and the design insight that the flexibility of the material could be taken advantage of to release it from a hard, unforgiving mold. The function of preserving food is certainly performed admirably but Tupper’s product but function did not determine the form of the object. That was an outgrowth off the investigation of the injection molding manufacturing process. Many containers preserve food well, but it was Tupper’s seal that made it easy and economical.

Tupperware, 1949.
Earl Tupper (1907 – 1983)
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Design is a Performing Art
Bruce Hannah 1997© | Illustrations by Bruce Hannah