Mesü Bowls

Mesü Bowls

Studio Panepinto, LLC, Allandale, New Jersey, 2003


Mesü came out of a need I had for a new system of measurement. In a way, I was the perfect client, although my target audience was the millions of people, like me, who struggle with their weight each day.

I had been on Weight Watchers and had grown tired of using a measuring cup to measure my cereal and every other morsel of food I would eat during the day. I had actually gotten to the point where I was eating directly out of the measuring cup! That’s no way to diet.

I realized that the only way I was going to be successful with dieting would be to find a dish that I could eat from that would also measure food for me. In my search I found lots of army-issue-type tray dishes but nothing beautiful enough to set the table with. So I sat down and designed my own dishes.

My goal was to create a dish or set of dishes that measured functionally and also looked beautiful. I wanted to take the punitive aspect out of eating healthily in order to make dieting not only bearable but fun. The name was the first thing that came to me: mesü, short for “measure beautifully.”

I defined success based on four key parameters:

Discretion: I wanted to create a discreet measuring system in which the user would know how much the vessel contained without announcing the diet to the rest of the table.

Quality and affordability: The dishes had to be created from high-quality material, but the price of the product had to be affordable. I didn’t want to limit purchase to an elite audience. Most anyone who wanted to take control of his or her weight had to be able to afford mesü.

Quality and functionality: In addition, the material had to function well under extreme conditions of cold and heat so that the dishes could be used in the freezer, oven, microwave, broiler, and dishwasher. I considered ceramic, plastic, and glass.

Design and storage: Mesü would need to be placed in a prime position in the kitchen for constant use. Most kitchens are already filled to the brim, so I focused on a design that would take up very little space on the shelf or counter. I never wanted the dishes relegated to the back-of-the-cupboard graveyard of big and clunky products that started out with promise but were soon abandoned because they reinforced a feeling of punishing oneself.

Taking all of these parameters into account in order to produce mesü was a challenge. After considering divided plates, section dishes, trays and other types of vessels, I decided on a bowl system, because a bowl is universal. It can be used to mix in, measure from, eat out of, and serve others with.

For the system of measurement I chose a set of graphic elements that would be easy to understand but not literal or overt. I chose a system of circles that resembled a pie chart that provided an obvious reference to amount. After pairing the symbols with happy colors, the set of six bowls appeared pleasing and fun to eat from. Porcelain seemed the most logical material, for its beauty, cost and versatility (microwave, oven, dishwasher, freezer, and broiler).

The bowls were designed to nest into one another. This feature helped to minimize the amount of space required for storage. I worked with an engineer to determine the exact specifications in order to ensure that, while the bowls fit together, there would be consistency in shape and the volume of measurement for each.

The response to mesü has been overwhelmingly positive. It started when I received an order for the first 100 sets of bowls when I was still at the drawing stage. Since then, the bowls have been featured in a number of design (Step, ID, How) and consumer publications (Food & Wine, Bon Appetite, Fitness, Real Simple, Metropolitan Home, Southwestern Spirit) and on television (Today, Extra). Mesü has reached a worldwide audience, with interest coming from as far away as Singapore.

Customers have called and sent e-mail raving about the product, purchasing multiple sets and sharing their progress as they use mesü every day to achieve their goals. The people who respond to mesü understand that reaching and maintaining healthy weight isn't about fad diets, it’s about healthy portions.

To make mesü a reality, I made a ballpark investment of about $20,000. Given the momentum generated at this early stage, it looks like it will have been worth every penny!

Collections: AIGA 365: 25 (2004)
Discipline: Information design
Format: Artifact


Design firm
Studio Panepinto, LLC
Creative director
Jennifer Panepinto
Jennifer Panepinto
Jennifer Panepinto
Jennifer Panepinto
Production director
Jennifer Panepinto
Content strategist
Jennifer Panepinto
Printing method
Enamel decal on porcelain
Neutraface (customized)
Jennifer Panepinto