5 Steps To Designing The Ultimate Lunch Box

Black + Blum offers the grown-up answer to the lunch box.

Anyone can put a sandwich in a baggie. But try packing a full-course meal, and you'll be lugging around a drawer's worth of Tupperware. "The Japanese solved that problem with Bento boxes," says Dan Black, who co-owns the London-based design firm Black + Blum. Yet, as of mid-2009, there wasn't an equivalent solution in America. So Black and partner Martin Blum set out to create one.

Although the name of the final two-piece product, "Lunch Pot," had to be straightforward enough to appeal to an international market, the team got playful by inscribing the rim with food-loving quotes, such as George Bernard Shaw's, "There is no sincerer love than the love of food." Here, we track the creation of the product. ($22, black-blum.com)

[1] Black + Blum's first next-gen lunch tote, the Bento Box, sold 100,000 units within nine months of its May 2010 launch. However, its cubic dividers precluded a sizable market: people who snack on amorphous foods, such as yogurt, soup, and salad. "For them," says Black, "we needed something potlike."

[2] "It looked like a zeppelin," says Black of an initial product sketch, whose liquids-only top compartment was quickly dismissed as overkill. "We wanted to make a food carrier, not a water bottle."

[3] Early prototypes (see white, pictured) had bulky, thermal-insulation strips and lids that sealed via "friction fit." "The whole thing felt precarious to open near a keyboard," says Black, whose team fashioned new models with simple screw-off tops (see yellow, pictured), designed to mimic the aesthetic of old-school Mason jars, as in the final product (see green, pictured).

[4] During transit, a strap mechanism holds both containers in place as the weight of their contents keeps everything taut. Once empty, the smaller pot stacks into the larger one to save space.

[5] To engineer the perfect spork, all 12 Black + Blum employees spent four months using different models to lunch on soup and noodles. "I liked the white prototype," says Black of the rejected jumbo-size design, "but my staff said it was just because I have a big mouth."

Photographs by Lisa Shin

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