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ICONS ARE BETTER #16: THE CHINESE TAKE-AWAY CONTAINER

Everyday we’re surrounded by hundreds of objects that we regularly use, but never think twice about.

For that reason, I want to take a moment to recognise and celebrate one of the most iconic but under appreciated icons that been a regular feature of many a Saturday night: the humble ‘Chinese take-away container’.

An early 20th Century design whose origins are unknown, what I love most about this piece of design is the history surrounding it.

Originally an oyster pail designed to carry oysters, and sometimes honey, home from the shop, the container’s usage changed after World War II when the price of oysters increased, demand for them fell, and the availability and popularity of take-away meals grew.

Before long, the ‘oyster pail’ was adopted as the take-away container of choice by Chinese restaurants because many could be easily carried at once, and the design was perfect for ‘less structured’ dishes like stir-frys and noodles.

And as with all examples of good design, this piece has not only stood the test of time, but it has been adopted by populations around the world–from the USA to Europe and even Australia.

So next time you find yourself chopsticks in hand, take a few seconds to appreciate the iconic piece of design that you’ve got in your hands: history, form and function with the added bonus of chicken chow-mein on the side.

Nicole Kirkland – Planning Director at mcgarrybowen.

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