The Keyboard Waffle Iron: CONTROL-ALT-DELicious
Chris Dimino, Designer & Inventor of the Keyboard Waffle Iron
I remember seeing the Keyboard Waffle Iron in a viral image (there are loads of them), and laughing out loud. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I wanted one very badly. My dad used to make waffles for the family every Sunday morning. He’d put on an opera on the turntable and belt out arias while he cooked. The music woke us up, and the smell of fresh coffee got us all out of bed (we’d been drinking a drop coffee in a lot of milk since we were little kids). Dad didn’t cook much, but his waffles were epic, and his Sunday ritual made him happy. Us too, obviously.
Dad was also a big tech-head and a gadget guy, and I only wish I could give him a KWI (that’s what the cool kids call it) for Father’s Day. However, the next best thing is that I married James, who also makes me waffles every Sunday! He even brings them to me in bed so I can eat breakfast with CBS Sunday Morning, the only show I actually watch on TV.
So I was a bit star-struck when i met Chris Dimino, Designer and Inventor of the Keyboard Waffle Iron, at the School of Visual Arts Makers Market last weekend. It was fascinating to learn how this product came to be. Chris agreed to answer my more burning questions (actually, they’re more golden-brown) and share his story with us.
You can meet Chris in person and buy your own KWI this coming weekend (June 18 & 19, 2016) at the Brooklyn Makers Market (Saturday only!). (And to be clear, all credit for the headline goes to Chris!)
→ DISCOUNT FOR YOU! Chris has graciously offered a $10 discount to Markets Of New York City Readers! Use the code MarketsNYC at checkout or let him know I sent you to see him in person!
I understand that this idea was from a class assignment at SVA. How did it become an actual product?
Original Design for SVA Class (Courtesy of Chris Dimino)
A few years after graduating SVA I posted the image of my Corona-Matic Typewriter Waffle Iron online and the image went viral, long before Facebook or Twitter. As time went on, people reached out to me asking if the waffle iron was ‘real’ and for sale. As I continued in my design career, the calls and emails persisted and missed opportunities mounted. At its peak my online page for the Typewriter waffle iron reached 7 million hits, and I was not in any sort of position to capitalize on it. Based on the activity and attention given to the image, I realized that people all over the world were responding to it and that making it into a real, functioning product would actually be a relatively safe bet.
After a year of ‘talking about’ making the product, I teamed up with my friend and inventor, Michael Frank. Having been through his own product development cycle himself, he helped start the process of making the KWI an actual product. The initial version came from a low risk/low cost approach and involved working off an existing electric waffle maker that we would customize a keyboard plate for. After developing this version for roughly 6 months we decided that the waffles from this design would be too compromised in shape, size, and overall quality. I started over and decided on a simple stovetop design which would cost more to produce, but allow me to design it exactly how I wanted. After some time educating myself via cold calls and research on metal casting, I learned how to go about making this design. I eventually got word of a trade show coming to NY, and there I met several different factories and met my current manufacturing partner… and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, refining the design, setting up a company – actual product!
Do you actually like waffles? If so, what’s your favorite kind of waffle?
Voila! Keyboard Waffle! (Image by Chris Dimino)
love waffles, and I am pretty biased to my own design! I love being able to fill the space bar with syrup and put some berries in the shift key… I believe simple fun moments like this are important to have in daily life. I used to crave Belgian-style waffles for their deep pockets and the crispy/soft ratio that comes with their thin walls and overall thickness. I’m really happy I was able to re-create that with the keyboard waffle, and make it fun to make and eat. In terms of recipes, I really enjoy the cinnamon swirl and blueberry recipes from our recipe book. I’m fairly active so lately I’ve been adding flavored protein powder to my mixes which has been surprisingly delicious.
Who gets more excited about the Keyboard Waffle Iron and why? Tech heads or foodies? Or others?
It’s very close, but I would say the tech heads get a bit more excited. The computer keyboard is their #1 tool and so they have a deeper connection to it than most. There is a world of keyboard customization where tech heads can ‘pimp their keyboards’ for lack of better term. They can buy custom key caps with various colors, designs, materials, and special features- it’s very cool! I think both tech heads and foodies share an interest in trying the waffles out for themselves as well as sharing with friends for breakfast/brunch.
Why do you think your waffle iron strikes such a chord with people? Is it the intersection of food and technology, or just seeing two everyday items turned into one?
I think that the keyboard is recognized as one of our primary forms of communication and it’s been around for for several generations! People of all ages and nationalities identify with it in their own way, so I think people appreciate the idea, and the seemingly natural translation of the keyboard pattern into a waffle. I also think it’s everything you mentioned, and that it comes down to being a fun product that people can use and will last them a lifetime. As technology changes, It will be interesting to see if/when The Keyboard Waffle Iron will outlast the keyboard as a physical product!
Where can we find your waffle iron or meet you in person?
Meet the Real Keyboard Waffle Iron
The website is www.thekeyboardwaffleiron.com. We have some great retail partners such as Uncommon Goods, Sky Mall, AHA Life, Fancy, and MikMak among others. We’re also expanding our presence overseas with retailers in France and the UK and with a distribution partner to cover multiple retailers across Europe.
We’ll be at the Brooklyn Makers Market this Saturday 6/18/16 from 11am – 6pm, just in time for that last minute Fathers Day gift! We’re excited to meet other local makers and potentially collaborate with cafes and restaurants in New York. If it’s happening with success at WooYoo Ice cream in Jakarta Indonesia, it can happen here!
We’re getting ready to produce the third batch of KWIs as we continue to grow and expand our base of retail partners. We also hope to become more involved with corporate gifting as we believe there are many companies that would like to give the gift of keyboard waffles to their employees. Beyond this, we have growing interest from Europe, Asia, and Australia, so we’d love to expand our presence in these regions!
~Karen Seiger, Markets of New York City
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