A spoon is a spoon is a spoon, right? Wrong. Spoons can be divided into roughly 4 categories, with some overlap. There are spoons for preparing food, spoons for transferring food from one vessel to another and spoons for transferring food from a vessel to a mouth. The last type of spoon consists of spoons that are entirely decorative in nature. More on those later. Today I will focus on the first three types.
You recall from the last post that each spoon, to be a good spoon, must have 4 characteristics: efficiency, comfort, mass (weight and balance) and aesthetics. In addition, spoons have certain interactions and tasks that increase their complexity. In this case an interaction is when one object interacts with another object via the spoon. A task is what the spoon is supposed to do during an interaction. All spoons are designed to interact with your hand. The hand is an incredibly versatile instrument. The number of motions and hand shapes that the hand is able to make are astounding. It is for this reason that the handles on spoons can be in a wide variety of shapes. The hand has the ability to comfortably adjust to many, many shapes. Some spoons (though not all) are also designed to interact with the mouth. The mouth is not nearly as versatile as the hand. It has one major motion, with slight lateral and proximal motion. The mouth is also very flexible. For this reason, spoons that are designed to interact with the mouth have bowls that are limited in size and shape. There is some variation and this is due to the limited versatility of the mouth.
The other thing that spoons interact with is vessels. A vessel would consist of a plate, bowl, jar, cup, or anything that holds your food. Vessels maintain a rigid shape and the only movement that they have is due to their being moved by the other hand. This is why a rounded bowl for a spoon works better with mixing bowls, and one with a corner works better for pans. We adapt the spoon to the limitations of the object with which it interacts.
Tasks for a spoon would consist of transferring food from a pot to a plate, from a plate to the mouth, or in food preparation such as scraping, scooping stirring, mixing, etc…
It is the combination of the tasks and the interactions intended for spoons that determine their complexity. For example, if you want a spoon to be able to stir your soup and mix your cookie dough, you would design contours that word work adequately for both.
Spoons for food preparation and spoons for transferring between vessels generally only interact with one vessel (the receiving vessel in a transfer does not really interact with a spoon unless the spoon is too large and you are trying to figure out how to get food into it). Spoons for the mouth interact with a vessel and with the mouth, thus increasing the necessary complexity in the design of the spoon. Spoon design will be the topic of many future posts. For now it is enough to know that complexity of design increases as tasks and interactions increase.
One last note…
That fourth category? Decorative spoons? One of the reasons that I do not carve them is because they lack complexity. Sure, they may be feats of technical carving skill, but it requires no understanding of how the parts of a spoon interact with the body and vessels. They interact solely with the eyes. For me, that makes for a boring spoon.
Watch the next post for how this applies to individual types of spoons.