Juicy Salif

Juicy Salif


Juicy Salif, a citrus juicer designed by French designer Philippe Starck in 1990, is considered an icon of industrial design, and has been displayed in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

This is all despite the fact that it doesn’t function all that well as a juicer: it’s not particularly stable; it’s messy; it doesn’t filter for pulp and pips; it’s hard to clean; and its polished aluminium finish is vulnerable to corrosion.

Alberto Alessi, President of the eponymous Italian kitchenware company that makes it, calls Juicy Salif “the most controversial lemon juicer of the century.”

The design inspiration story is interesting.

Starck was having lunch in an Italian restaurant on the Isola di Capraia off the coast of Tuscany on a Spring day in 1989. Realising that he didn’t have any lemon to squeeze over his calamari, the idea for a calamari-inspired juicer came to him. He grabbed a placemat and started to doodle. After ten days of not hearing from Starck regarding a vase he was meant to be designing, Alessi received a letter containing the folded up placemat bearing the designs for the Juicy Salif … a very Starcky move.

When Alessi first saw the drawings he jumped out of his chair recalling that “it was one of the few cases were I had the immediate understanding of the product and that I knew it would be a great product.”

By 2003, more than 500,000 of the iconic design artifacts had been sold, and strong sales continue to this day.

Starck has publicly stated that Juicy Salif was "not meant to squeeze lemons" but rather "to start conversations.” In saying this, he was pointing to something that has always been an aspect of the world of design, but of which Starck has become the champion: objects have emotional functions as well as practical ones. It is no coincidence that the Juicy Salif was chosen by Donald Norman  for the front cover of his book Emotional Design: a thought-provoking set of reflections on how we perceive objects in our daily lives; noting, among other things, that something that might be considered a flop at a functional level, can acquire significance from other perspectives: symbolic, philosophical, cultural.

Although the product is meant to be fun, it has been analysed extensively by design theorists. Alessi says:

"There is a very complex theoretical explanation for the project. The explanation has to do with what semiologists call the “decorative veil.” The decorative veil is the space that always exists between the function and the design of an object. There is never a complete overlap. In this case, Philippe exploded that little space, and this is why it is a great design.”

According to US architect Brock Danner, Juicy Salif represents the blur between tool and fashion object, and the evolution of the kitchen from back-of-house to “a zone somewhere between the kitchen and the dining room … where dinner preparation is performed as a type of domestic theatre.”

Whatever your thoughts, Starck gets his wish. Many conversations have been had.

Story Idea: Remo Giuffré



Video: The most controversial lemon squeezer of the century by Dezeen Studio

Book: Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman


1. Juicy Salif. Image Credit: Alessi
2. Juicy Salif in action. Image Credit: shopdecor.com

3. More Juicy Salif in action. Image Credit: klatmagazine.com
4. Philippe Starck in 2011. Image Credit: jikatu, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
5. Stark Placemat Doodle. Image Credit: Alessi
6. Alberto Alessi in The most controversial lemon squeezer of the century by Dezeen Studio
7. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

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