The iconic tool turns 50 this year–here’s the story behind its immense popularity.
Picture a pair of scissors, and there’s a good chance they’re orange. But have you ever wondered why? It’s all thanks to the 368-year-old Finnish company Fiskars, whose ubiquitous orange scissors turned 50 this month. The story behind their design involves the advent of ergonomic design in the 1960s, a companywide vote, and one very happy accident.
Fiskars has sold more than 1 billion of its scissors, and today they sit in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. Orange is so strongly associated with the company, it even won a lawsuit to trademark its orange–making it one of only a few companies to have successfully trademarked a color.
So who designed this staple of the homes around the world? That would be the industrial designer Olof Bäckström.
In 1967, the plastics industry was exploding. The material was finding its way into many household objects, and Bäckström was working on creating plastic tabletops and other home goods at Fiskars. He had some bright-orange plastic left over from making orange juicers, which became the de facto material for his prototype scissors. He took a pair of typical heavy metal shears, combined it with the light durable plastic, and designed a handle that actually curved to fit the user’s hands–a first.