A paper towel dispenser doesn’t have to look like one
The master architect Louis Sullivan operated on the concept of “Form follows function” — that the design of something should be determined by what it does. With that philosophy, Sullivan designed beautiful and memorable buildings in some of America’s most important cities.
Somewhere along the way, other designers heard Sullivan’s words but not their meaning, and “Form follows function” often came to mean dull. Boring. Utilitarian.
When we created the best commercial Paper Towel Dispenser from S2design, we went back to Sullivan’s words, and what he meant by them: “… that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function.” A design takes on life from the purpose that brings it about.
“Form follows function” is also why most restroom paper towel holders look the way they do: a box on a wall with a slot, towels hanging out below for pulling. They’re simple, functional, and so familiar that we don’t even consider how they might fit better into a room’s decor.
So at S2, we started out by looking at the paper towel dispenser differently.
Change the function, change the form
A paper towel dispenser is shaped like a box because it needs to hold a stack of towels folded into rectangles. It has a slot at the bottom because that’s how the folded towels come out one at a time.
We thought, what if we used towels from a roll instead? And suddenly, the need for angles was gone. That allowed us to sculpt an arc around the roll. We made the arc of seamless, satin-finished steel.
There are only two openings in the design. At the bottom, we created a unique fitting that dispenses one perforated towel at a time off the roll above. And on the right, toward the back, we placed the key-operated lock for opening and servicing the dispenser. Turn the key, swing the steel housing away, and replace the roll.
Change the form, improve the function
The design is like no commercial paper towel dispenser you’ve seen: simple, elegant, clean and modern, perfect for complementing any decor. Yet rethinking the form of such a familiar fixture also allowed us to make it function better. The curve of #20 gauge, 304 stainless steel is impervious to rust, even in humid environments. There’s no paint to age and chip, and the satin finish resists fingerprints. No corners or slots makes it easy to clean with just a wipe, and the wide swing of the housing means replacing the roll takes only seconds.
But changing the form also allowed us to address the most frustrating and familiar aspects of the old design: towels that you can’t get out because they’re packed too tightly, or towels that fall out in a clump when you need only one.
The best commercial paper towel Dispenser gives you one towel when you need it, every time; and more are right there, one towel at a time. No fumbling with wet hands, and no waste.
As far as we know, Louis Sullivan never used his genius to design a paper towel dispenser. But we like to think if he had, it would look — and perform — like ours.