Everyone seemed to enjoy the last time I went off-uni, so today let’s look at another inconspicuous piece of underappreciated design: the little plastic thingie that comes in the center of a delivery pizza pie. Often referred to a “pizza table,” and frequently repurposed as a doll house table, it is properly known in the trade as a lid support.
It’s not clear which pizzeria first used the lid support, but the little devices appear to have begun circulating in the mid-1980s. Nobody keeps track of how many are made, but over a billion pizzas are delivered each year in the United States, so that gives us a good starting point. The corrugated cardboard pizza box was supposed to eliminate the need for the lid support, since the more rigid cardboard doesn’t cave in like the flimsier cardstock boxes, but my admittedly unscientific research indicates that pizzerias using corrugated boxes continue to use lid supports — sort of a belt-and-suspenders approach.
What fascinates me about lid supports is the surprising amount of variety in their design. The basic version is the one shown above — plain and round. But there are all sorts of variations on this approach, the simplest of which is to stamp the word “Pizza” into the plastic:
If we turn the plain and “Pizza”-embossed lid supports upside-down, we can see there are other differences besides the embossed word:
As we descend deeper down the rabbit hole of lid support design, it appears that many of the variations are attempts to save plastic. For example, why have a solid round top when you can replace some of the plastic with air:
Hell, why not replace even more of the plastic with air:
If you look at that last photo, you’ll see that the design is basically a triangular surface surrounded by a ring. But who needs the ring? Let’s just have a triangular lid support:
But all that plastic in the center is unnecessary — let’s scrap that. The result is a lid support that’s more skeletal-looking but just as effective:
But wait — can we make our skeleton even more skeletal? Sure we can:
Does that look like it might not be strong enough to do the job? Don’t worry — we can beef up the upper level and toss in a bit of Greek mythology while we’re at it:
Now here’s a surprise: I poked around a bit on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office web site and discovered that a patent for a lid support was granted to one Carmela Vitale of Dix Hills, Long Island, in 1985. I’m not positive that this is the earliest lid support patent, but it’s definitely the earliest one I could find. If we look at the accompanying drawings, we find that Vitale’s original concept was for the skeletal design (click to enlarge):
So whereas I had assumed that the lid support started out round and than became more minimalist, its evolution appears to have gone the other way around. Interesting! Perhaps this explains why you can also go in the anti-minimalist direction and get a lid support that’s tricked out with all sorts of bells and whistles (click to enlarge):
That’s all I have to say about lid supports, at least for now. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely having pizza for dinner tonight.
DC party reminder: Remember, Uni Watch party in Washington next Wednesday, Feb. 6, 7:30pm, at Hamilton’s. See you there.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Neglected to mention yesterday that the Suns wore 1990s throwbacks on Wednesday. …
Matt Milinoski has been working on a really good project: He’s compiled the history of Red Sox uniform typography from 1933 onward. Good stuff. … Check it out — Muhammad Ali in a Ravens sweatshirt. … The Charlotte Knights will wear 1990 throwbacks on Friday nights this season. … USC and UCLA went color-on-color, with UCLA wearing those tone-on-tone jerseys, on Wednesday night. … During halftime of that game, UCLA retired Reggie Miller’s number. … Russell Goutierez has an interesting take on the 49ers’ one-day helmet: “I lived in the SF area when they trotted out that helmet. Aside from the design, a lot of the backlash centered around the (probably correct) perception that the owners were trying to ‘de-Frisco’ the team, for lack of a better term. The Raiders were off in L.A. at the time, so I think they wanted to horn in on the Oakland market, along with San Jose, etc.” … Also from Russell: Paul Kruger of the Ravens looks like he’s wearing a cummerbund or something. … New baseball uniforms for Air Force (from Jay Sullivan). … Here’s an article about a Minnesota company that makes Super Bowl knickknacks (from Mark Medinger). … Google did a nice Jackie Robinson doodle yesterday, but they got his uniform wrong. … Lots of new logos being proposed for Illinois. … One of the immutable laws of Super Bowl week is that there has to be a story about a big counterfeit jersey bust. … Two years ago I did an ESPN piece about the Wilson football factory in Ada, Ohio. That factory now has its own Tumblr. … In a related item, here’s a look at the phantom Super Bowl footballs. … Here’s an early peek at the new NFL draft caps (thanks, Brinke). … This is pretty cool: The most important plays in Super Bowl history on each yard line of the field (from Lou Sherwood). … Here’s the latest Washington Post column urging the ’Skins to change their name. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Reader “Vin Eethy” (pretty sure that’s a pseudonym) was in a Manhattan café and spotted a cookie based on the Niners’ old one-day helmet! How random is that?! … Also from yesterday: The Ravens’ end zone was originally being painted purple, but now it’s been repainted black. … The Tulsa Shock are the latest WNBA team to go with a corporate advertising on their uniforms (from Kevin Brown). … Here’s something I didn’t know: Back in the early ’70s, long before the current mania for game-used memorabilia, the NHL was selling certified “goal pucks” to the public (good find by Jake Elwell). … How much was Nick Johnson injured during his career? This much. … Here’s the info for this year’s Giants bobbleheads (from Eric Stroker). … The Blue Jays’ BP cap has a logo on the back. It’s not yet clear if that’s the case with all of the new BP caps, but it seems like a fairly safe assumption. … Terry Francona hasn’t even suited up yet as the Indians’ skipper, but he’s already had three uniform numbers. According to a note toward the end of this article, “Francona started with No. 47 because that’s what he wore in Boston. He decided to switch to 33, for reasons unknown. But then [Nick] Swisher signed and asked for 33, so Francona switched to 17. Not that it matters much, because Francona always wears a cage jacket over his jersey, anyway” (from Dan Cichalski). … Speaking of MLB uni numbers, a note at the bottom of this article suggests that the Yankees will have so many non-roster invitees at spring training that they might have to go to triple digits (from Johnny Bruno). … Good infographic showing the helmet histories of the nine oldest NFL franchises (from Eli Lourie). … Remember about a year ago when I wrote about bicycle head badges? Here’s a really nice one — a Brooklyn Dodgers head badge! Unfortunately, the bike itself is in pretty rough shape (from Phillip Garza). … Providence wore gray last night against UConn (from Erik Sundermann). … Special shout-out to Parks Wilson: You are hereby named Uni Watch’s official intern-in-waiting.
As a lifelong 49ers fan,, I’m way stoked for Sunday’s game. Nervous, too — losing to a purple-clad team in the big game would be the ultimate indignity. In any case, everyone enjoy the game and I’ll see you back here on Monday.