Coca Cola Cups, E-cigarettes, a Potty, and the Israeli Brains Behind 'Em

Yuval Saar
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Yuval Saar

Millions of McDonald’s customers all over the world know Coca Cola’s branded cups very well. Designed like a wave, with rubber rings in the colors of the Olympic flag - it is almost impossible not to be exposed to the Coca Cola cups in McDonald’s. But not many people know that these cups were designed in Herzliya Pituah by Israeli designers Noam Tenenbaum and his partner in the Tenenbaum Hazan Industrial Design studio Izaq Hazan.

Tenenbaum founded the studio in 1994. “Our brief was to think of new products for sales promotions,” recalls Tenenbaum. “One of the insights we reached was to get as close as possible to the real thing. Today that sounds funny, what is more genuine and connects better to a drink than a cup? The second challenge was to discover how we connect between the values of Coca Cola and their logo, and the world of football and sport, and how do we translate two dimensional values to three dimensional products,” he said.

Until the World Cup in Korea in 2002, Coca Cola used to distribute soccer balls, beach towels and other conventional sales promotion products with its logo. The cup the studio designed was chosen as the official glass, produced in the tens of millions and successfully distributed all over the world. The inspiration for the design was the Mexican Wave - the famous wave that fans create at ball games which made its debut in Mexico in 1986.

The studio also designed the official cup for the most recent Olympics in London as part of the format of that same framework, with the design concept based on the five rings that make up the Olympic logo. The rings were designed as silicon bracelets in a range of colors, which can be taken off the cup and worn on the arm as a wristband. “Since they were in the same colors as the flags, they caught on strongly with the fans,” says Tenenbaum. Another cup was designed around the simple and obvious idea of the well-known Coca Cola can, with the aluminium replaced by glass in six colors.

“I’ve sat in restaurants around the world and received my drink in those glasses,” said Tenenbaum. “It is part of the fun, this wide distribution. Even now I remember the first glass we designed. It is always amazing to go to the factory that manufactures your product, certainly at the beginning when you are young but also today, and in this case it was on a scale I couldn’t have imagined. A very large glass factory in Turkey, in which you see tongues of fire, crazy noise and in the end a product made out of transparent glass comes out that no one has ever touched yet. It is simply something perfect, it is an amazing experience. It is one of the strongest experiences I’ve ever had,” he added.

From medicine
to lifestyle

Tenenbaum, 46, graduated from the department of industrial design at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem in 1994. After he graduated he opened a studio in the Florentine neighborhood in south Tel Aviv and started designing medical products, points of sale and other things. In 2002 he met Hazan who was then a design student. “There was a rare chemistry between us,” he said. Hazan continued to work in the studio and after three years, in 2006, Tenenbaum decided to make him a partner. “The studio was already a company with experience, a reputation and an arsenal of customers, and many people were amazed. It was not obvious, he did not bring money or different knowledge. He simply invested work and today we are equal partners. It is without a doubt the best thing that happened to me in my professional life,” said Tenenbaum.

The studio today has seven designers and works with both local and international customers. Among the interesting projects the studio designed in recent years are such products as an instrument for dermatologists with a futuristic design, dozens of products designed for Epilady and a brand of electronic cigarettes called Neo that was launched recently in England. This project included the design of a number of types of e-cigarettes, designing a special package and also promotional products.

Making a classic design

“Usually for new technology there are a number of stages of adoption by the customers,” said Tenenbaum. “The first stage usually relies on the classic design it received as an inheritance from the original product. This effect was expressed in the past in that the electronic cigarettes simply looked like regular cigarettes in design, size, colors and even in the way the flame at the end oxidizes. The new product already looks like a status symbol. In the final product, we introduced elements from the world of jewelry, more stylistic work with contemporary design, with an attention to detail and the introduction of more expensive looking materials. The result turned the electronic cigarette into something fashionable and that proves itself,” he said.

Sometimes the challenge actually lies in low tech products, such as a drying rack for dishes or a potty for little children, which the studio designed for a company in South America. “There is something great in designing for a country where some 50 percent of its population lives under the poverty line. The challenge there was to lower the price as much as possible without compromising on the good design,” said Tenenbaum. “The name of the game was to reduce the amount of material so as to save on costs. We thought a long time how to create the products as thin as possible. In the case of the dish rack, we canceled the water collection tray under the rack, and since it has an angle the water runs down into the sink. That’s how we cut costs,” he said.

What is good design for you?

“The product needs to have an internal truth. We tend to connect to what we perceive to be genuine. A product that does not ‘sweat’ is a product that is designed well. Sometimes the truth is a function, sometimes minimalist design does the work, and sometimes it will be exactly the contrary - excessive decorativeness will be the truth, since it is the character of the product. Many times you don’t know how to define it, but when there is something genuine in design, everyone knows how to recognize it,” says Tenenbaum.

Israeli designers Noam Tenenbaum and Izaq HazanCredit: Daniel Tchetchik

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