Suitable for target groups, hygiene and use: The electric stand mixer
Prof. Andreas Kalweit / Industrial Design
Photo: UniService Transfer

Suitable for target groups, hygiene and use

Industrial Designer Prof. Andreas Kalweit on the invention of the electric stand mixer

Malted milk is a powder made from barley, wheat flour and malt powder that is combined with milk to make a drink. In the 1920s, it was a big hit in the catering industry in the United States. For this purpose, the Polish-born American Stephen Polawski developed a device in 1922 that is now present in many households. What was it?

Kalweit: That was the stand mixer! But I can think of one more inventor.

The engineer Herbert Johnston also invented a stand mixer in 1919, which is now world-famous under the name Kitchen Aid. Johnston was from Ohio and took pity on bakers. The work was very laborious, because you had to knead a bread dough with an iron spoon. In 1908, he invented an electric stand mixer at Hobart Manufacturing Company and developed it for households in 1919. It is more of a mixer, but at the time there were quite a few inventors of devices for mixing ingredients.

The stand mixer consists of two parts, and the base usually houses a powerful motor. Thus, it can be used to prepare the most delicious things. However, to this day, these machines make a hell of a noise. What's the reason for that?

Kalweit: On the one hand, it's the motor, but above all it's the cutting blade and the vessel. The cutting blades rotate at a very high speed and generate very loud noises with the contents to be chopped. The coarser and more solid the ingredients, the louder the device. The jar body made of glass is also a good sound body with very low, sound-absorbing properties.

Today, there are a variety of other knives, which are also needed, for example, to crush ice. Here, the knives rotate in the opposite direction. In times of veggie drinks, you can mix practically anything healthy. But design is also playing an increasingly important role here, isn't it?

Kalweit: Design has many facets, and today, on the one hand, design that is suitable for the target group is certainly very important, but so is hygienic and user-friendly design. But the design was already very important for the original device, so that it would work well in the first place. The drive motor is relatively heavy and it seems obvious to place it in a stand and not hold it in the hand. On this stand rests the vessel with an opening in the bottom through which the drive shaft of the motor protrudes and drives a knife. The rotation of the knife crushes the contents of the vessel, but to ensure that the mass is also well mixed, there are depressions or grooves in the vessel wall so that the mass is also conveyed from the edge back to the center and is well mixed. In a round vessel, an inefficient rotation funnel would result. And so that nothing squirts out at the top, a lid closes off the whole thing. So the design here has an extremely functional aspect. The beautiful, round shapes are derived from the fact that the surfaces are also easy to clean after mixing. Grooves, sharp corners, holes or materials unsuitable for food are not permitted for hygiene according to the guidelines. These aspects alone show that the concept of design has been defined much more broadly.

This is extremely relevant, especially in the current era, because we are surrounded by countless superfluous products that justify themselves by being something newer again. Plainly spoken: The stand mixer, like many other products, has been designed many times, just not by everyone yet.

This doesn't mean that design is superfluous, but that design is and will be more important than ever: Products must be thought of far beyond the product itself in the context in which it stands. Is the product useful? Does it solve a real problem or create new ones? And that brings us to the core issue that is relevant today: what happens when the product is no longer needed? What happens to the materials? But also: Where do the materials for new products come from? These are aspects that are being discussed intensively today with terms like "Cradle2Cradle" and "circular economy." The ideas are not new at all. Prof. Michael Erlhoff published a book called "Use instead of own" a quarter of a century ago, and the Club of Rome published its report "The Limits to Growth" 50 years ago.

The central question is: How can we use the available resources without consuming them? The answer to the question is: It is a design task! That is design!

Many of these stand mixers are built in a retro style. Why?

Kalweit: Good design is able to create meaningful products and thus stand out from less good ones. By their very nature, the more products there are, the less noticeable they are. This can lead to the unrecognizability of design. Everyone is sure to have an opinion on good design and you will find that there are many and quite different opinions.

We feel that today's times are unsafe, however, the earlier times were not really better. What has changed, however, is the certainty with which we face life. The certainty of what the future holds was not a question in the history of human development in times past... professions were passed down through generations... this changed seriously and at ever shorter intervals since industrialization and digitalization. The philosopher Hermann Lübbe coined the vivid term "present shrinkage" to describe this. The future is becoming uncertain as it draws closer to us.

Today, with Corona and the terrible Ukraine war, the media world is showing us how unpredictable the future is. This was the case even before Corona... it stands to reason that in these situations we look for security and permanence. We find it in the tried and true, the enduring, the traditional, and the long-lasting.

This is the reason why retro and vintage style has been around for many years. Craftsmanship, manufacture, regionality, resilience (ability to adapt and survive), sufficiency (striving for the lowest possible consumption of raw materials and energy), mindfulness, etc., are all terms that meet this zeitgeist.

Polawski also began designing household blenders in the 1930s. For this purpose he founded the "Stephens Electric Company". After selling his company to the "John Oster Manufacturing Company", these household appliances were called Osterizer blenders. When did the first stand mixers appear in Germany?

Kalweit: I don't want to commit to exact dates, but to my knowledge, the first manufacturers in Germany were Braun in 1950 and Krups in 1959 with its 3-Mix. Max Braun developed a Multimix kitchen appliance series consisting of a stand mixer and a food processor. Gerd Alfred Müller designed the Multimix M 2 stand mixer in 1952.

Is there also a blender in the university's own Schriefers design collection?

Kalweit: Yes, of course, Müller's Multimix and Braun's blender immediately come to mind.

Power stand mixer, vacuum stand mixer, high-performance stand mixer or mini stand mixer, what do you expect from such a high-speed appliance?

Kalweit: It should be easy to clean and take up little space in the kitchen. And if it does, it should be original.

Uwe Blass

After completing an apprenticeship as a fitter, Andreas Kalweit studied mechanical engineering at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, then industrial design at the University of GH Essen, graduating with a diploma in both subjects (mechanical engineering with distinction). Since 2012, he has been a professor for "Manufacturing & Material Science - Focus on Construction Technology and Systems in Design" at the University of Wuppertal.

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