In 1919, KitchenAid received its first U.S. patent for the Model H-5 stand mixer — an 80-quart electronic mixer for professional bread bakers. American home cooks quickly caught on to the brand’s ingeniously efficient appliances, and by the early ’20s, droves of people were singing the praises of the company’s food-prep wonders that could beat, cream, blend, slice, grind, and strain.
Today, KitchenAid stands as the gold standard for chefs, with its machines dominating both the large-appliance and countertop markets. And despite its success, KitchenAid continues to innovate, with recent launches including an induction cooktop and a first-of-its-kind wall oven. And the future is promising; this isn’t a company that’s resting on its laurels.
We had a chat with Leif Norland, principal designer at Kitchen Aid’s Small Appliance Studio, to find out more about where the brand’s been, where it’s going … and just what makes that stand mixer so iconic:
Describe the brand in a few words.
Iconic design, premium performance, powerful and long-lasting.
KitchenAid is an iconic brand. How has it earned this status? You don't just become an icon overnight…
KitchenAid has a heritage that’s incomparable to many other brands. Since 1919, KitchenAid has been an icon in the kitchen, and this all comes from uncompromised quality, performance, and innovation. Not only do we have passionate consumers, we also have passionate teams that pour their heart and soul into every aspect of the business. Our iconic stand mixer is a loyal companion in the kitchen for many households, offering outstanding performance and helping make memories to last through the years.
The stand mixer: it's the company's claim to fame. What made it gain such worldwide recognition?
The roots of the brand’s design aesthetic can be traced to Egmont Arens, who redesigned the stand mixer in the Streamline Moderne style in 1936. The KitchenAid stand mixer has gained global recognition through its world-class engineering, innovative design, powerful performance and expansive product offerings. Our stand mixer is available worldwide in a tilt-head or bowl -lift design, in multiple capacities — and let’s not forget the power hub, which offers the ability to power over 12 optional attachments. And if that isn’t enough, KitchenAid recently re-entered the commercial market and offers a 7-quart Bowl Lift Stand Mixer with NSF® Certification for Professionals. It’s no wonder why chefs choose KitchenAid Products for their home more than any other brand.
Do you ever feel that sometimes people over-associate the company with the stand mixers, and aren't aware of the other offerings you have?
Strangely, no. It’s true, we are always associated with the stand mixer, but ... I feel honored that we have such a product that people are passionate enough to have it tattooed on their bodies. My goal is to develop products that consumers desire to have in their home as much as the stand mixer. KitchenAid offers everything for the kitchen. That’s the beauty of the brand … it’s a complete premium kitchen solution. Major appliances, small appliances, cookware, bakeware, gadgets and textiles — all backed by KitchenAid’s uncompromised quality, innovative design and powerful performance.
What has been the company’s biggest innovation in the last few years?
My favorite launches in the past few years are the 13-Cup Food Processor with Exact Slice™ System, featuring an external adjustable slicing lever, and the 5-Speed Hand Blender with removable interchangeable bell blade assemblies. The Food Processor has an external adjustable lever, enabling the consumer to slice from thick to thin with a simple slide of the lever. The Hand Blender allows you to switch bell blades from mixing to mincing to blending with a simple twist on and off.
What do you see as the company’s direction in the future?
KitchenAid’s future direction is to be present in every kitchen around the globe. The intent of KitchenAid is to make life easier in the kitchen, but also to inspire, evoke and help the kitchen enthusiast create masterpieces.
KitchenAid has been known for establishing a uniquely American design aesthetic. What makes American kitchen-appliance design different?
There are two components that credit KitchenAid for its unique design aesthetic. The first is form: The design of the stand mixer is based on the American Streamline Moderne movement [of the late 1920s and 1930s). It is less formal and more humanistic. And second, but just as important: color. KitchenAid offers more colors than your typical ice cream flavor list; it is a unique core competency of our brand.
Talk about design vs. function -- how does each play a part in the items you offer?
As an industrial designer, I have to manage both. The design of our products inspires our consumers to display them proudly and function puts them to use daily. Our broad team of engineers, designers, home economists, professional chefs and specialists all work together to make sure KitchenAid products deliver both, uncompromised.
What is your favorite KitchenAid item that you own?
Although every KitchenAid product I own has potential to qualify as a favorite, I would have to go with the Empire Red Artisan stand mixer that was given to my wife and I shortly after we were married, long before I joined the brand.
Photos courtesy of KitchenAid