Case Study Outtakes: The Toaster (Portfolio Website)

The Problem: In the past decade, the rise of the celebrity chef has fostered a renewed understanding of food preparation as a type of art. We were approached by an extraordinary household toaster that wished to capture some of the lightning from this zeitgeist by displaying some of its most notable work, including a piece of toast that looked a bit like Nelson Mandela and another that, when you held it at just the right angle, seemed to be a remarkable reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica. The toaster needed to make its presence known beyond the butcher block in the corner of the kitchen–it needed to start promoting itself on the internet.

The Solution: Fortuitously, Marshall Creative has already done a handful of what are called “portfolio sites”–simple, no-frills websites for individual artists that give them the flexibility and power to build an online gallery of their work. Starting with the general template that we used for noted photographer Rosie Soko, we collected from the toaster a significant series of portraits and uploaded them into a slider format. We strategized categories based on both the lightness and darkness of the toaster settings and the bread medium being utilized. We also gave the toaster the future option of an e-commerce system, so that art aficionados and foodies alike could make offers on the pieces presented.

Why It Didn’t Work: Unlike traditional sculptures or paintings, toast art has an unfortunate tendency to be ephemeral. The toaster was often unable to capture its work before it was covered with butter and devoured. This inconsistency, however, was merely one facet of a larger problem that no well-designed portfolio website could fix–the general public’s misunderstanding of the toaster’s message and aesthetics. Every so often, somebody may be looking close enough to grasp the true power of the image…but such people are few and far between. Call it prejudice or simply poor fortune, but few kitchen appliances are given their due during their standard warrantied lifetime…we wish the toaster the best of luck, as we do all artists.

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