A love letter to invisible design— Tea Kettles

Kira Street
3 min readJul 15, 2022



“Good design involves as little design as possible”. This 10th principle of good design from Dieter Rams often gives me pause. Another way I’ve seen it stated is “Good design is invisible”. But, what does it mean to design as little as possible? How can something “invisible” be characterized as “good”?

So, I thought to myself, what are the things I use that I don’t think about often? I wanted to take some time to reflect on those invisible designs in my life and write a short love letter of sorts to my experience with their simplicity. This is the first of an unknown number. I’ll edit this intro as I add more. Hope you enjoy.

Up first, tea kettles.

Photo by Jorge Garcia on Unsplash

If there’s one thing I love in the morning, it’s a hot cup of tea. It’s hydrating, soothing yet jolting, somehow three things that I need to motivate me to start work. That love for tea has caused many friends to give me tea as gifts, so I’ve amassed quite the collection. Dried green tea leaves from China. Fruity white teas from South Korea. Herbal infusions from Boston. Dry Desert Lime tea that I can get from virtually any major grocery store. It’s a joy to choose one to drink in the morning.

Therefore, I’m quite acquainted with my tea kettle. It’s red and glossy and fat (short and stout if you will). I refill it every other day or so. I don’t think much about using it, really just checking it to make sure there’s enough water for two cups of tea, then turning on its stove eye as I get ready for work.

Its design is simple and fits my needs. It’s red, my favorite color. The main body is metal, ideal for holding the heat in as the water boils. There’s enough space for 3–4 cups of water, more than enough for a single user. It has a plastic handle so I don’t burn myself as I pour a cup. The shape of the spout makes it easy for water to steadily stream from the kettle to the mug without spilling. And possibly my favorite thing is that, as the childhood song says, it shouts when it’s ready.

Though it might be a shrill interruption to my calm morning, it makes me excited to know that tea is coming. My day can start.

Those core features make it easy to design different variations depending on the end-user. Electric kettles that don’t need a stove to heat up. Large kettles that hold more water for large families. Steeping kettles that are used for display on the dinner table. Handcrafted kettles that are made with care and love, never to be made exactly the same.

In its simplicity, the tea kettle’s design becomes invisible. So long as the core design remains intact, it can be remixed in a myriad of ways and still be a good design.

In the future, there might come different designs for tea kettles. Maybe the typical shape will change or maybe it’ll evolve into a built-in chamber in every kitchen so we don’t need a separate kettle anymore. But in the meantime, I’ll keep using my red, short, and stout tea kettle, and remain joyful every time I hear it shout.



Kira Street

I am a freelance product designer and a maker, with a passion for education and mental wellness.