Ryan Newson

Ryan Newson

The Phenomenology of the Kitchen

This is my spatula. I love it. It is not a simple love…

I have a jar of cooking implements—including other spatulas—next to my stove, but both my family and I will go out of our way to use only this spatula. If it’s dirty, and the other spatulas are clean, we will wash this one to use it. We will never use the other ones. In our minds, they are not interchangeable. I began to wonder why…

The results are being compiled currently in my laboratory.

I tried to track this spatula down to buy another one as a gift, and I found that it hasn’t been produced since the ‘60s. It was made by a company called Ecko Flint, which made stainless kitchen tools like knives, spatulas, bowls—the whole gamut. You could take this and run with an argument for spatula degeneration: That nothing is made like it used to.

I realized that because Ecko Flint was gone, I obviously couldn’t buy anything from them. But also because they were gone, they had become an anonymous brand. A passive brand. Not a no-name brand, but a large brand—wide reaching—that has become invisible. The company had faded away but its objects remain… which among other things is a unique design feature.

How much of your life do you want to give to a spatula? Learning about improvements and comparing design nuances…
All of these processes are themselves part of our culture, and they’re not going to go away, but they completely miss at some of the most interesting potentials of design.
I love my spatula. In it’s design refinement it has rendered itself invisible—fading away further behind my daily life. This refinement is not from new materials, advanced processes, or any thing distinctively new or different at all.
I came to realize that the only differences between this and almost any other spatula is a careful refinement related to direct experience from use, and by a very specific regard for it’s ecology—the systems that it lives in.

I came to realize that the only differences between this and almost any other spatula is a careful refinement related to direct experience from use, and by a very specific regard for its ecology—the systems that it lives in.

All of the components to make these design choices already exist. They have to fit into the life we are already living. The only thing left is to make some connections, and design in a way that allows us to let go of one more thing. This is some of the ways in which I research, and this is what I’ve found. I just want a goddamn spatula.


  • Role Design Researcher, Philosopher

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Fashioning Cascadia