The Making of the Porcelain Coffee Mug Series by FIFTYEIGHT PRODUCTS
What mood are you in today? Grumpy? Happy? Mischievous? We have just the right coffee mug with a facial expression for you! FIFTYEIGHT PRODUCTS raises the bar in porcelain design with cute coffee cups with faces, from grumpy to baffled to joking face. This story has the details of how the mugs became part of the family.
We’re always excited about all the suggestions from customers and friends for new products they want us to make from porcelain. “Why don’t you guys make…?” they say, followed by the most amazing ideas. One of these great ideas consisted of a new line of coffee mugs, and we just had to go for it!
While we’re always excited about new ideas, porcelain as a material with really specific and delicate properties and manufacturing needs can be quite the reality check for even the coolest visions. And it gets even more complicated when you’re adding facial features and embossing to a product. Which is why some ideas we receive via email and social media unfortunately never see the light of day…
But we managed to figure out how to build solid mugs that last for generations and let the world know how you're feeling in the morning. And we have added to the mugs family over the years, with new designs that cheer up fans all across the world.
The “hard” facts about the Coffee Mugs by FIFTYEIGHT PRODUCTS:
- Filling capacity approx. 11 oz
- Microwave and dishwasher safe
- Variety of moods and facial expressions
- With or without handle
- Sets of 2 various mugs available
- 100% Made in Germany
Like every product here at FIFTYEIGHT, the mugs are based on 3D-design on the computer. And they also appear as lively characters in our animated video clips. Like this one here, in a pretty Holidays theme:
INSIDE THE DESIGN PROCESS OF TASSEN MUGS
For a little look behind the scenes of the design process of our popular mugs, we got the lowdown on the origin story from 58 Products designer Max Zimmermann.
Hi Max, thanks for talking to us about Mugs! What’s the creative process behind a new TASSEN product? Do you usually start with a sketch?
When it came to making the new mugs, at first I had a couple of different approaches in mind. Because in the first step, it was all about defining the basic shapes of the mugs and seeing about the implications for getting them into actual production, which has a lot of requirements.
The first version, for instance, was not conically shaped like the finished product, but featured straight lines, like you would imagine a “boring” office coffee mug.
And then you reached out to our manufacturing partners for feedback on how feasible and realistic these ideas were from a production angle?
Exactly, then I got some pretty devastating feedback regarding the feasibility. So I had to hit “Empty Trash” and let go of my initial approach entirely! Then I did a bunch of research and took a new stab at it. And then one day, the characters popped into my head and I could see the mugs before my mind’s eye. Then I had to figure out what kind of emotional state the mugs will be in.
Do you then experiment with different emotions expressed by the same character?
Yes, I created an entire sheet with individually numbered facial expressions, which you can see in the photograph. In the image accompanying this story, you can get an idea of all the alternative choices we came up with.
Then the feedback from the production side was much more positive and we knew that making the new mugs was actually possible.
On that note, I have to say that without the professionals and artists over on the production side of things, we wouldn’t know what we’re doing. Backed by their experience and know-how, it’s so much easier finding the way to an actual finished product.
And with the mugs, I also knew that I wanted to make characters that are a bit more “forward” than our previous TASSEN. That’s how we ended up with a super funny “grumpy” facial expression.
So that was a break from all the happy-cheerful products up to that point, right?
There really hasn’t been a “grumpy” TASSEN product like that, except perhaps for the "sulking" bowls, which were still kind of cute. What was the reasoning behind going in that direction.
With the grumpy design we wanted to make a departure from the whole paradigm that everything we make somehow had to be “cute, sweet, and nice”. In the end, it’s much more interesting to offer diversity and differentiation.
And once you had narrowed down the final sketches, did you go into 3D-modelling as a three-dimensional computer model?
Exactly, that’s when we started modeling the little guys in 3D. And not only in the basic pose that leads to the so-called "rigging", which is the basic technical model. But also right away in different shapes and facial expressions.
In the next step, our Senior Animator Walter Volbers created a new animation rig into which my shapes were implemented. This entire process of fine-tuning the three-dimensional shapes in Blackbox took about two weeks.
Then my FIFTYEIGHT 3D partner Timm Osterhold went and experimented with the mugs some more and created some pretty nice 3D-poses.
Overall, the aesthetics of the mugs are rather unique. How did you create the look that is a bit of a departure from previous bowls and cups?
Like I said, we were trying to create a counterpoint to our previous TASSEN products. Something like a new species within the same universe. Their common features are in the curvature of the porcelain, as well as the material itself.
The coffee mugs line enables us to tell new jokes and stories with our mugs, and we can expand our humor and storytelling capabilities by bringing them onboard.
What do people say when you walk into your local bakery or cafe to get a refill of coffee with one of the mugs? They’re bound to be conversation starters…
Most definitely! Overall I always thought that our porcelain products can be the start of a conversation in the real world. After all, that’s the key component of our porcelain line: Bringing people together!
Getting people to communicate, and in the best-case scenario, making them laugh and smile together is what it’s all about.