Research + design lay groundwork for game-changing oven

This oven is out to redefine food preparation, and Design Central helped get it to the game-changing place where it is now. Powered by radio frequency, the rapid-cook oven cooks faster, better and more thoughtfully than a microwave. But before it was born, its technology was simply a powerful tool with potential. About a decade ago, ITW Food Equipment Group engaged us to ideate possibilities for real-world application. In other words, how could this powerful method of cooking be harnessed into a chef-friendly machine? We delved into the food industry and designed concepts that helped cultivate the product’s path to success. We then passed the baton and, years later, are thrilled to see where the product ultimately landed. Now, experts say products like this could make microwaves obsolete.

  • ITW
  • Commercial
  • Strategy
  • Research
  • Product Design
  • Engineering
  • Prototyping
  • User Experience

Objective: Ideate, design and engineer real-world applications for a new technology that cooks food rapidly and thoroughly.

Field research uncovers commercial possibilities

The technology was brimming with potential, and ITW knew it. So they enlisted our help to explore how the technology fit into the food equipment marketplace. (Among the technology’s special powers? It can bring salmon from frozen to cooked in minutes—without melting the surrounding ice.) Our role found its roots in research, uncovering how this technology could be most useful to those in the restaurant industry. We spent time with chefs and in fast-casual establishments, observing their food prep and cooking techniques to fully understand the nuances and where the most potential resided. These field observations helped us identify early possibilities: RF’s ability to thaw and adapt to the size and makeup of various foods at one time, simultaneously heating vegetables, proteins and breads to ideal temperatures.

Strategy + design deliver high-end experience

RF’s capabilities meant that it would eventually be much more useful and versatile than even the best microwave, but it would also cost more. Our challenge became designing a high-end product that would speak for itself in terms of value. We conceptualized an oven that would take the place of a combination oven in footprint and usage, and we focused on designing an intuitive user interface. Early concepts pointed to a clean and sleek design that would reflect its revolutionary applications while still feeling familiar to chefs who would put it to use.

Engineering development leads to viable solutions

Our final stages focused on creating models and, eventually, functional prototypes to support ITW’s internal processes. Our engineers faced challenges in containing the radio waves to a small structure and found success in how the door, internal space and control panels might function. Ultimately, working with a technology far ahead of its time proved exciting and rewarding, as this piece of cooking equipment is on track to shift the paradigm in food preparation.