The genius design strategy behind the Oreo Cookie Emboss


More than The New York Times The magazine is nice 6th FlooOn her blog, Hilary Greenbaum asks “Who made that Oreo embossing?” “

Interestingly, when the Oreo was first introduced by Nabisco in 1912, he used a much more organic crown for his embossing, later augmented with two pairs of turtledoves in a 1924 redesign.

The contemporary Oreo stamp was introduced in 1952 and it has remained unchanged.

In the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger, Oreos have been “the stuff of legend” ever since.

Writing in 1986, to mark the 75th anniversary of the cookie, Goldberger said the Oreo “is the archetype of the genre, a reminder that cookies are designed as consciously as buildings, and sometimes better.”

Comparing the Oreo to its lower performing competitor, the Hydrox, Goldberger notes:

Yet it is the Oreo that has become the icon. And after all, it’s the more American of the two – its uniform, even simplistic, pattern has an industrial, clean-lined quality. You could say that it combines warm decor with an American love of mechanical imagery, and within that combination is a triumph of design.

Hydrox cookie

The late Hydrox cookie.

Wikimedia Commons


However, despite the iconic status of Oreo embossing today, the identity of its creator remains murky. As Greenbaum reports:

Many internet resources have credited William Turnier as the man behind the four-leaf clover and the jagged-edged design, but Nabisco could not confirm that a man of that name worked for the company during this time as a than “design engineer”.

In response to Greenbaum’s post, a comment from ‘Bill’, who claims to be the son of William Turnier, raises the intriguing possibility that the original plans for the Oreo embossing are hanging over the door of a family room in Chapel Hill. , North Carolina.

I hope design museums across America sharpen their acquisition clutches.

Oreos

Oreo manhole cover, by Andrew Lewicki, an artist based in LA.

Edible geography


It turns out that Oreo obsessives online spent as much time decoding the design as they did speculating on the designer’s identity.

The circle surmounted by a two-bar cross in which the word “OREO” is located is a variation of the Nabisco logo and is either “one of the first European symbols of quality” (according to Nabisco promotional material) or a cross of Lorraine , as worn by the Templars in the Crusades.

Continuing the The Da Vinci Code-theme, the geometric pattern of the one-point Oreo with four triangles radiating outward is either a schematic drawing of a four-leaf clover, or – recall the cliffhanger music of “Jaws” – the cross pattée, also associated with the Templars, as well as with the German army and today’s Freemasons.

Biscuits

The evolution of Oreo embossing, from 1912 to 1924, until today.

Nabisco via The New York Times


No wonder the Oreo has become the most powerful cookie in the world, with over 491 billion sold to date.

Read on to learn more about the history of cookie embossing.


Biscuits

Hexagonal ship’s biscuit, painted by an anonymous sailor, and showing evenly spaced docker’s holes, c.1906.

National Maritime Museum


Conspiracy theories aside, the origins of 3D biscuit making are both pragmatic and decorative. The practice of punching holes in cookies is known as “docking” and has been practiced by bakers for centuries to avoid uneven pockets and promote a flat crisp.

According to British food writer Elizabeth David, a pre-mechanization dock worker was “a dangerous-looking utensil made up of heavy, sharp spikes driven into a chignon-shaped piece of wood.”

During this time, across Europe, a parallel and equally time-honored tradition of decorative waffle irons and wooden molds emerged, used to engrave religious symbols on communion wafers, coats of arms on pizzelle, and courteous images on German springerle.

Biscuits

Wooden eucharistic wafer stamp from Epirus, Greece.

A history of food from Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat.


The turn of the 19th century saw the birth of the industrial biscuit and, with it, the marriage of these two morphologies, mooring and decoration, in an automated production line.

In the late 1890s, two cousins, both named Thomas Vicars, designed the first embossing and die-cutting machine, capable of punching holes, stamping decorations, and cutting eighty cookies per minute from ‘a sheet of dough in motion. Dies were necessarily hand carved until the introduction of engraving machines in the early 1900s.

Thin, hard cookies, such as rich tea and morning coffee, are always made almost exactly the same. But the real golden age of biscuits did not begin until the invention of the rotational molding machine in the late 1920s.

Biscuits

Diagram of a rotomoulder.

“Buscuits, Crakers and Cookies Technology” by Duncan Manley


This technology, although updated with variable speed controls, advanced non-stick coatings, and quality sensors, is still used today to make Oreos and most other heavyweight embossed cookies.

The cookie dough is forced into negative molds, which imprint designs, brand names and docker holes. A scraping knife (“D” in the diagram above) scrapes off any excess dough to give a flat bottom, and the formed cookies peel off on a conveyor belt for baking.

Biscuits

Weidenmiller rotating mold rollers.

Edible geography


So this is the sustainable technology behind the blend of baking science and the aesthetic appeal that is a raised cookie. But what about the designers who have created equally durable molds or dies?

For the most part, unlike Oreo’s William Turnier, they not only remain anonymous, but completely ignored. No one seems to know who created the stylized ferns on custard, which have remained unchanged since their debut in 1910; or the steaming Art Deco mug on the Morning Coffee cardboard cookies of my youth.

Biscuits

The Custard Cream: Britain’s favorite cookie.

Wikimedia Commons


Biscuits

Nice design, too bad for the cookie. Morning coffee.

Etsy


This tradition of cookie design anonymity apparently continues to this day. Illinois-based Weidenmiller, for example, promises its team of anonymous artists “will develop any design from conceptual thinking,” while Italian Errebi Technology offers more than 500 rotary mold shapes. off the shelf – and totally uncredited.

Biscuits

Rotary mold cutting machine today.

Errebi technology


Biscuits

Ready-to-use embossing forms from Errebi.

Errebi technology


In my opinion, these classic cookies – ubiquitous, overlooked and yet embodying the highest design standards in both form and function – deserve to be recognized as “humble masterpieces”, to use the phrase. terminology of Paola Antonelli.

It’s time to brew a nice cup of tea and enjoy a couple of it myself, I guess.

This article originally appeared on Edible Geography.


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