The "Gorilla Sandwich" is not only by its nature a very unique design, but it is also a good representation of what can be designed and how far design reaches into our life.
The Gorilla Sandwich is one of those designs that is a good story, and at the same time it serves as a high-quality example to demonstrate the infinite possibilities when it comes to successfully blending aesthetic design to an object's function, with an end result that most designers wouldn't consider, even in their wildest dreams, could be designed at all.
The raw food market had been growing for a long time, and about two and a half years ago the market place was in need of a good "on the go" raw meal. A few fresh food manufacturers approached me and asked me to create a fast, healthy meal, the equivalent to a sandwich or burger.
Where do you begin? First, I had to adapt my own way of eating to a raw diet, to be able to fully immerse myself into the situation. I had picked up a book on eating raw food, and after a week, I found my favorite dish to be a very green salad with lots of kale and cucumbers as its main ingredients. Eating all this organic, fresh, healthy food made me feel great. So, I decided to use this recipe as the foundation for my project design of a healthy sandwich.
In the same raw food book, I had read that the gorilla likes to eat similar food groups, and because of this diet it was very strong, able to bench press ten times its own body weight, which is 4,000 pounds. I was impressed. This was the starting point of the Gorilla Sandwich. But where do I go from there, with cucumbers and kale as the main ingredients?
A plain cucumber! Redesigning a cucumber? Wrapping it all in a kale leaf? That's impossible! Wouldn't you say so, too? Well, here again, as so many times before, my athletic background led the way.
The main objectives were to invent a raw sandwich that was remarkable enough in its design to be patented, and a strong trademark associated with it for marketing purposes. In this case, the recipe would take the place of the function, and the ingredients: black kale mustard greens, black olives, avocado, walnuts, dulse (seaweed), flax oil and of course, a cucumber, would be its limitations, since it had to be edible, too. The design had to be within those parameters.
Originally, the recipe was taken from a raw salad that I found in a raw cook book. Two factors, the easily perishable ingredients and the requirement for a shelf life minimum of four days, were two opposing forces that were making it virtually impossible to market the recipe as a loose salad or wrap it into the leaves of the kale or put it between two cucumber halves. It would spoil within one day. The situation posed a challenge in both design and function. A solution didn't seem to be at hand. Until a friend called me up to go surfing. I had just prepared my salad, but didn't have a container available to take it with me. I don't know how it occurred to me, but I took a long spoon and started to carve out the cucumber. And as I did, I realized I had solved my problem. The Gorilla Sandwich was born.
There was no need to cut the cucumber into the salad, because I could now stuff the salad into the cucumber, and my all raw sandwich was ready to go. I had a great surf session, and afterwards, my first Gorilla Sandwich tasted awesome. I had overcome the challenge by accident or inspiration. Sometimes the two are hard to keep apart. However, the solution turned out to be the best possible. I was able to get rid of the pulp, the part of the cucumber that was very high in water content, which was one of the main reasons the other ingredients would spoil so easily. The thin walls of the carved out cucumber "container" left me with just the right amount of water content to keep the balance of the original recipe that without the cucumber would be too dry. Now the salad was beautifully enclosed in its edible container, but still open on top; somehow it had to be sealed. But what should I use? Design a plastic cap? That wasn't feasible, since cucumbers come in so many different shapes and sizes. Another lightning bolt of inspiration hit me, and I decided to take the little piece of the cucumber that I just had cut off and stick it back into the opening, but in reverse, with the narrow side facing down. It fit beautifully. And to add an element of design to it, I carved out the little piece just deep enough, so I could garnish it with an olive. Of course, it had to be a green olive.
Now the color-sensitive artist in me was talking. The finished product was a beautifully sculpted vegetable. And the ledge that formed where the little container met the big one gave me the distinguished design that I was pursuing and needed for patenting purposes. And after opening my mouth and biting into it, it wasn't much of a stretch to come up with the name, "Gorilla Sandwich." I still can't bench press ten times my body weight, but I had created a container with natural properties that would keep the ingredients from perishing and maintain their freshness. The good shelf life now makes it possible to market the Gorilla Sandwich in stores. It is currently sold in Whole Foods Markets, and also freshly prepared under a licensing agreement by a few selected raw food restaurants.
The Gorilla Sandwich is an example of a commercially successful project and challenging design, all at once. The design is also currently under negotiations with one of the world's top three leading fast food chains for a not all raw version. This design is here to stay, and eventually people might refer to it as casually as they ask for a hamburger.