Behind the Design: OXO’s Iconic Good Grips Handles

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Ever wonder how the comfy, easy-to-grip handles ended up on so many of your favorite OXO products?

One of the first things you probably associate with the OXO brand is the iconic Good Grips line. The soft, non-slip, black handles can be found on many products from spatulas to can openers. So how did these handles come about?

Let’s start at the very beginning, in case you haven’t heard this story yet. Sam Farber founded OXO when he saw his wife Betsey having trouble holding her peeler due to arthritis. This got Sam thinking: why do ordinary kitchen tools hurt your hands? Sam saw an opportunity to create more thoughtful cooking tools that would benefit all people (with or without arthritis) and promised Betsey he would make a better peeler.

Part of that better peeler—as well as the other 14 OXO Good Grips products that were initially launched—was a wide, oval-shaped handle that was easy to hold and control, no matter the size or shape of your hand or the strength of your grip. And while this might not sound like a lot of kitchen gadgets you see in stores now, back in 1990, this wasn’t the standard.

When looking for materials to use on his new idea, Sam went with thermoplastic rubber (TPR), which was pretty innovative in kitchen products at the time. Back then, TPR was mostly only for industrial use, its most common appearance in the automotive industry. Sam chose this material for a few reasons. For starters, it’s soft to the touch and non-slip even when it gets wet. The second reason is more technical: TPR is relatively easy to bond with other materials, which means it’s compatible with a variety of materials that would be used in kitchen tools, like stainless steel and nylon. And last but certainly not least, it’s dishwasher-friendly. Since TPR is used on the internal gaskets of many products, Sam knew it’d be perfect for kitchen tools that need to withstand years of wear and tear in the dishwasher.

Since the kitchen tool market had never seen anything like the Good Grips line before, Sam knew he had to make the big black handles engaging to consumers. And that’s how the “fins” were born. On the sides of each handle were a little set of fins that flexed when you touched them. They invite people to give them a try, and helped get the brand-new Good Grips products in peoples’ hands.

But the handles weren’t the only way Sam encouraged consumers to get a feel (literally!) for how different these tools were from others on the market. He partnered with retailers to showcase an OXO peeler next to a bowl of carrots so people could walk right up and sample the product right there in the store. Again, he was met with some blank stares—nothing like this had really been done in the industry before. But retail stores soon saw the value of letting customers test products, and now in-store demos and interactive display models can be found in many stores across all of our product lines.

After more than two decades of the OXO brand expanding and growing, the need for a visual cue isn’t quite as important. Now that we’re known for our non-slip Good Grips handles, many of our newer products have the same comfortable grip, just without the fins on the sides. Now we use the fins primarily where there’s a functional benefit, like on the OXO Oil Stopper/Pourer, where the fins are used to fit different sizes of bottle necks. But don’t worry, some of our classic tools still have those signature fins, a relic of our early OXO days. What’s your favorite OXO Good Grips product?

By Valerie Liston
Valerie Liston is part of OXO’s Brand Communications team. She is a Bostonian by blood, a New Yorker by choice, a writer, a lover of stories, a self-proclaimed nerd, and a Hufflepuff.

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