Getting a grip

A longtime partnership that changed kitchens everywhere.


  • Client
  • Industry
    Consumer Goods
  • Services
    Customer Research, Industrial Design, Human Factors, Design for Manufacturing, Systems Engineering, Prototyping

In 1989, businessman Sam Farber had an aha moment. After watching his wife, Betsey, struggle with a common vegetable peeler, he set out to make ordinary kitchen tools easier for everyone to use—adding delight in the process.

Almost 30 years later, we’re proud to have been there from the beginning to help Sam’s vision grow from a one-man startup to a household name. A strategic partner with OXO International since 1990, Smart developed the influential OXO Good Grips line, which introduced the concept of Universal Design to mass retail and created consumer demand for better performing, easier to use kitchen tools. With Smart’s help, the OXO brand has continued to expand and evolve while remaining true to one simple but powerful idea: create products that make everyday life easier.

Products that work for everyone, every day.

Since the initial launch of 20 kitchen tools, we’ve designed hundreds of products for OXO, helping guide and support them to new categories including cleaning, bath, laundry storage and organization, gardening and the OXO Tot children’s brand. Most recently, we launched an inaugural line of electric appliances, OXO On. Today, our partnership continues as we work to widen OXO’s lead as one of the world’s most admired and wonderfully comfortable housewares brand.

The degree of clarity to the OXO brand is quite rare. Most companies struggle to expand without losing what made them great in the first place. Not OXO. This notion of 'making everyday life easier' has become the driving force behind everything OXO does, and it’s allowed them to expand into adjacent categories very successfully.

Davin Stowell
Smart Design Founder

Universal Design for everyone.

OXO’s success has been an unwavering dedication to the principles of Universal Design—the belief that products should be accessible by the broadest spectrum of users. Together with OXO, we’ve visited hundreds of homes and spoken to thousands of people over the years to study how they use products.

Objectified: Smart Design OXO Good Grips Story

Simplicity, no matter which way you read it.

Beyond designing their very first products, including the iconic vegetable peeler, Smart also created the OXO brand identity. A simple black and white packaging system works just like the products it represents: it’s straightforward, easy to understand and does a stand-out job at shelf.

From tools to tots.

As their long-term design partner, we helped OXO expand into the children’s category with the Tot line, created with the needs of both babies and parents in mind. Since its 2010 launch, Tot has won numerous design awards and continues to be one of the company’s high-growth segments.

Making electric more meaningful.

Our recent collaboration with OXO on a new line of electric appliances called Oxo On—a first for OXO— was driven by the belief that technology should simplify—not complicate—our lives. The thoughtfully curated line of products, which include coffee makers, toasters, and an immersion blender, was painstakingly designed with user needs in mind instead of copious bells and whistles. Features focus on helping people reach better outcomes with less effort.



Find out more about how the decades-long OXO and Smart Design partnership has influenced design:

The untold story of the vegetable peeler that changed the world

How inclusive design is Smart Design