Put a lid on it: An excursus into the murky lives of plastic lids

I hate plastic lids. I hate takeaway coffee actually. I’d much rather drink my coffee from a nice heavy cup that’s just the right size. But plastic lids are a necessary evil. Thanks to people who like to sue companies for serving hot coffee. We apparently use 1.5 billion of these things every year (source).

There’s more design to these lids than meets the eye though, and the Atlantic has a fascinating piece about the plastic lid. Well worth a read, especially if you like to bore people at parties or you want to hit on somebody at a cafe and need an in.

This is the “Solo Traveler” Lid.

“For example, the Solo Traveler lid was designed to accommodate the nose and lip of a drinker. In accomplishing this design goal, the necessary height of the lid made it useful for foam-topped gourmet coffees.”

The simplicity and usability of this lid has inspired admiration from designers. Like this piece of effusive (and pretty weird) praise:

“Here come the inevitable Freudian references: the Solo Traveler lid is a substitute for a mother’s breast – what we might call nature’s original travel lid. The flat covers with the tear-back openings offer no such metaphoric representation. Instead, spout = nipple. Paper cup = warm skin. Coffee, tea or soy = mother’s milk. Ergo the lid is a nurturing apparatus. It provides comfort and joy as well as nourishment. Certainly plastic is not the most warm and loving material, but somehow the fundamental shape transcends the emotive limitations of the materials. Somehow that lozenge-shaped opening is a means to a totally satisfying end.”

Image Credit: New York Times Design Profile

That’s overthinking it a bit.

Lids are the product of significant innovation.

“Twenty-six new patents were issued in the ’80s alone, for refinements in “mouth comfort, splash reduction, friction fit, mating engagement, and one-handed activation.”

I don’t know about you, but thinking about it, I’ve noticed several innovations in my life time – so that means there have been many more since then.

You’ll find more detail than you ever thought possible about some of the lids in that picture here.

This is the “Sweetheart Spider”…

“This Sweetheart lid was patented in 1985. Its tear lines, which rely on stamping to within a five mil tolerance, were intended to replace scored, or dotted sip tab junctures. The removable tab is supposed to reattach to the cup by the bead -the round edge that crimps the cup lip- but this is a dubious proposition, even if you manage not to lose the tab.”

The family joulies: Keep your coffee at the perfect temperature for longer

Coffee knick-knacks are a dime a dozen. Or. In this case. $40 for five. I give you “The Joulie” an energy transfer device of such ingenuity that it will drop the temperature of your coffee quickly into drinkable range, and then hold it there. For a long time. You can give this little product a “kickstart” and secure your share of the first run. Amazing.

“This amazing feat of thermodynamics happens thanks to a special non-toxic material sealed within the polished stainless steel shell. This material is designed to melt at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and absorbs a lot of energy as it melts. This is how Joulies cool your coffee down three times faster than normal. Once it reaches this temperature, the special material begins to solidify again, releasing the energy it stored when it melted. This is how Joulies keep your coffee warm twice as long.”

300 Vintage Coffee Ads and the lessons they teach us

I like the idea of charting the progression of a product by charting the qualities used to sell it. Check out these ads from the vaults of Vintage Coffee Ads, or at least, from the collection of almost 300 ads from around the web (there are some duplicates).

There was quite a bit of scare campaiging going on for a while in the last century surrounding the health effects of caffeine… so the Decaf sellers did what they could to stoke those fires, apart from the fact that it triggers prostate cancer

Coffee makes you feel good

The number one sales pitch for coffee is the combination of flavour and effect that we all know and love. Coffee is nice, and it makes you feel good. So come and get it.

You shouldn’t settle for second best

If there’s one thing every coffee company in history is keen to claim – it’s that they are the best provider of your daily fix. Life is too short for bad coffee – or, as is the case in this first ad – you can’t stretch coffee with substandard products…

Coffee makes you more desirable

It’s true. What they say. You’ll get further in life if you behave like an adult and drink coffee, and you’ll be glamourous and everybody will want you.

Coffee is about relationships

Heaps of coffee ads, right up to the television ads I remember, make a big deal about coffee’s place as a social lubricant.

Here’s a verse, about coffee.

Good coffee is like friendship. Rich, warm, and strong.
Coffee is so rewarding
Nothing else comes close
Make it this way every time; dark and rich
Give it character, bless it with strength
Get all the goodness good coffee can give
Make it coffee. Make it often. Make it right.

Coffee is good for your marriage

While coffee is good for friendships, it also seems to be the key to domestic bliss.

This ad is slightly phallic. Or is that just me?

Coffee machines are essential for feeling good about one’s self

Shiny coffee toys make the world go round…

Coffee is the best way to start the day

Coffee will pick you up in the morning and keep you going at night. It puts the pep in your step. The string in your bow. It keeps you going all day.

Coffee is an experience for the senses

Coffee is delicious. It’s indulgent. It inspires the taste buds, but it also smells good, and feels nice in your mouth. Flavour matters.

Coffee should be simple

The real appeal of instant coffee is how quick and easy it is to make. Perfect for the housewife on the go, or the no nonsense man looking to get ahead in life.

It should also be simple because men are stupid.

Fresh coffee is best

People knew fresh coffee was important as early as the 1930s… or so it would seem.

And in the 50s.

It’s also important to keep the air out of your coffee container. Storage matters.

Fresh ground is, and always has been, best…

Process matters

Showing an understanding of the coffee process has always been a good point of difference from one’s competitors.

Selling Decaf – Caffeine makes you crazy (or does it?)

Decaf will make old people nicer. Apparently. And fathers less likely to spank their children, and farmers more likely to milk their cows.

It’ll also stop you hearing the bumps in the night (but it won’t stop the bumps in the night).

And, if you really want to look after your husband – you’ll unspike his coffee. By serving him tasty, tasty, dishwater decaf.

Hot as the sun, or cold as the pole, coffee’s the drink to warm your soul. This one is from the 40s.

Here’s an ad for Decaf from the 50s…

And a couple from an earlier “coffee substitute”…

You can’t beat a celebrity endorsement

George Clooney, Al Pacino and Roger Federer are modern day examples of celebrity coffee drinkers who have sold their souls for a sub standard product, but celebrity endorsements for coffees are as old as the coffee advertising industry itself.

Here’s John Wayne…

You need to lie in order to sell Instant Coffee

I’ve never seen an ad for instant coffee that presents a semblance of realism or truth. Because I’ve never seen an ad that claims that instant coffee tastes like dirt. But instant advertisers throughout history really pushed the envelope of truth when they started claiming their product tasted better than the real thing.

And here begins Nescafe’s dynasty of misleading advertising, culminating in today’s “Green Blend”…

Here’s where coffee turned classy… and Italian.

Creative design from the South

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