A Creative Outlet

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By Diana Budds / Published by Dwell
With clever packaging, Bocci turns a humble electrical outlet into a design statement.

As a designer, Omer Arbel strives to express a pure idea in the architectural spaces and products he creates. The 22 series outlet by Bocci, the Vancouver-based design and manufacturing house for which Arbel is the creative director, arose from the challenge of introducing light switches, outlets, and other protrusions that he says degraded his spaces. "The outlet was the most aggressively ugly and offensive one," Arbel says. Unlike conventional outlets that have faceplates mounted on a wall, the 22 series sits flush with the surface. With the packaging for the 22 series Starter Kit, Arbel sought to challenge assumptions about what an outlet should be. "We hoped to establish the preciousness of the objects inside [the box]," he says. "Even though an outlet is a mundane and ordinary object, perhaps we ask the question, Maybe it isn’t? Maybe it’s actually a very worthwhile and precious thing, just like all the other elements that go into a good design."

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“Every time you challenge a basic assumption, there needs to be some method of expressing the fact that there’s new logic at work.”—Omer Arbel, creative director at Bocci

Inspired by the considered way Japanese confections are boxed and presented, Arbel and his team created a package that gives users the feeling of opening a gift. The glossy white cardboard cube features a circular cutout on the lid that reveals a printed silhouette of the outlet, mimicking its appearance when installed. Inside, each component is neatly set into black foam cutouts. "The goal was to show the ultimate minimalist simplicity of the piece," Arbel says.

Arbel envisioned the 22 series fitting in among displays of Bocci’s designs, which are typically sold in high-end shops. "In retrospect, it was a naive thing to do," he says. "Electrical contractors buy outlets. We were hoping that people would come directly from the construction site and burst into these perfect gallery-like spaces to buy this excessive starter kit. Our efforts fell on deaf ears." Recently, Bocci released a tamper-resistant version of the 22 series.