Mike Eng User Experience Designer 401-234-4611
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Usability Observation #18

Aug 19, 2010

Click to view image in Flickr

Iconic teapot form. Photo credit: Diamondduste.

Ah the old familiar iconic form of a teapot. Here is my handle (one side); here is my spout (opposite side).

Donald Norman's Unusable Teapot

Let us consider some variations.

There’s Donald Norman’s ironic take on the teapot from the cover of his book, The Design of Everyday Things – the unusable teapot. Imagine pouring boiling liquid with it.. Right.

Chinese teapot

Self-serve Chinese teapot.

I found this in a market in Chinatown. The handle and spout are side by side. My first reaction was one of shock – “wow, that looks really awkward”.

Chinese teapot in use.

Chinese teapot in use.

But when picking it up and tipping it. It’s actually much more natural than using a traditional teapot such as the one our figure model is demonstrating. First, one doesn’t have to either reach across the table or hunch one’s elbow at one’s side when pouring. This design locates the action right in front of the pourer. Also, the pouring motion can be done by flexing the elbow – there is no shoulder motion necessary as there is when pouring with a traditional teapot.

Familiar – no.
Functional – yes.

2 Responses


  1. Jessica Maurais

    I found one of those teapots. Do you know what they are called and how much they are worth? If not, do you know where I can find that? Thank you for your time?

    Aug 04, 2011 @ 10:38 am


  2. mrengy

    I’m not sure what they’re called – just stumbled upon them here. If you find out more, please let me know! I don’t imagine they’re very valuable – at least not the garden variety kind like the one shown here, just seemed like an everyday thing in the market.

    Aug 05, 2011 @ 10:13 am

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