Spotlight: Manual

We are excited to announce our newest brand.


Manual is craft over convenience. Manual is ritual over routine. Manual is simplicity over novelty.
— Manual


Fast food is a cultural obsession. Coffee comes in disposable pods. Your egg carton is wi-fi connected. 

But Manual sees things a little differently. 

We think the effort of preparing food is just as pleasurable as the food itself. We think there's pride in making something yourself. We just aren't all that impressed with gratuitous features. When it comes to food—we'd rather take it slow.

The aim of Manual is to design products that celebrate the aesthetic and experiential while providing essential utility. Our products are first and foremost tools for food, but hope to express deeper meaning through thoughtful design.

Manual values utility—form follows interaction. Manual values understatement—design that humbly integrates with the home and strives to age gracefully. Manual values authenticity—creating honest design that is meant to be used, instead of being props for an idealized lifestyle.

Manual is a project directed by Craighton Berman—a designer who has work in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and was the first designer to use Kickstarter to launch a product. Based on this background of high design mixed with DIY attitude, Manual is interested in producing products that combine the authorship of design with the spirit of internet culture.

 The Manual Bar Blade is inspired by the flat metal bottle openers found in the back pockets of bartenders all over the world—a utilitarian bar tool that's always at the ready, quickly snagged to pop some caps, and then slid back into place for the next round. For a bartender, it’s a ritual. Manual creates products that elevate and celebrate rituals, so we wanted to create our own version of the iconic bar blade that would react to this repetitive use.The Manual Bar Blade is created by wrapping a strip of leather around a laser cut stainless steel opener. The leather is then hand-sewn through the steel via laser-cut holes. By bringing the warmth of leather to the utilitarian steel we created a designed object that feels great in the hand, adds an handsome accent to your bar, and—through frequent use—develops a patina, like a well-used leather wallet.The Manual Bar Blade was also completely manufactured within our home city of Chicago. In fact, every manufacturer we've worked with on this project is located within a few miles of the Manual studio.The leathers are sourced from Horween, one of the oldest and most-respected family-run tanneries in the US, who have been tanning top-quality leathers in Bucktown for over 110 years—that's five generations.The stainless steel is laser cut by D&J Metalcraft, a second generation metalworking shop in Chicago’s Ravenswood industrial corridor.And the leather is cut and hand-sewn by Ashland Leather, an accessories brand founded by two long time Horween employees—who have become close collaborators on this project.In addition to being completely Chicago made, we’re also excited that the Bar Blade combines both ends of the manufacturing spectrum—computer-controlled cutting and artisanal handcraft.It’s our hope that you’ll be using The Manual Bar Blade for years and years to come, giving it your unique patina with each bottle cap it pops.

'Pinch’ is a ceramic salt cellar and pepper shaker set that brings the experience of adding 'a pinch of salt' to the dining table. Pinch is ideal for for sea salt or Kosher salt—which is loved by cooks for its ability to draw flavors out of foods. Typically a chef keeps a large vessel of salt—known as a cellar—next to the stove, and intuitively pinches portions for their works-in-progress. This direct interaction with the salt was the inspiration for the design of Pinch.Pinch brings the salt cellar from the stovetop to the dining table. The bottom vessel holds a portion of sea salt, and the top sphere is a traditional pepper shaker, which acts as a cover for the cellar when not in use. The act of 'closing' Pinch results in the satisfying slide of two pieces of ceramic against each other--a viscerally pleasing interaction that is reminiscent of using a ceramic mortar and pestle.I originally designed Pinch a few years ago, and exhibited a prototype for a competition hosted by Design Within Reach in Chicago. I also had the opportunity to exhibit Pinch in 'Handled With Care', an exhibition curated by Designboom during the London Design Festival—both of which resulted in a lot of positive attention and press. But a prototype is just a physical idea—I want to bring Pinch to life!I recently redesigned Pinch, created new prototypes, and I'm now working with a Seattle-based ceramic artist to produce a limited-edition edition first production run.