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KISS: The Philosophy Behind the Best Portable Propane Fire Pit on Earth
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KISS: The Philosophy Behind the Best Portable Propane Fire Pit on Earth


Have you ever purchased furniture from Ikea? It’s designed to be affordable, modern, and practical for the modern apartment dweller, right? You enter that giant, wonderous warehouse full of opportunity and mock bedrooms, and you dream of your stylishly decorated new home. 

You’ve set eyes on it. The perfect dresser for your new bedroom is staring back at you from your favorite Ikea exhibit. The next step proved to be a little cumbersome. You had to head to the basement level and play warehouse manager to locate that same perfect dresser, packed into a suspiciously small box. Undeterred, you head home with your new dresser in hand. 

Now here’s the fun part. And by fun, I mean the absolutely aggravating part where you get to melt your brain for 6 hours assembling your new dresser based on the completely obscure picturebook that Ikea calls instructions. 


Moral of the Story? No One Wants a Propane Fire Pit From Ikea

Now that I’ve painted this picture of frustration that I’m sure you can relate to. Let’s talk KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid. To put it simply, Ikea furniture is the opposite of KISS.

Keep It Simple, Stupid is a minimum effective dose approach to creating designs and systems. It was originally coined in the US Navy. The idea was that anything designed to be used in the field should be easily operated and repaired in a combat situation by someone with only basic mechanic’s training. 

KISS doesn’t only apply to military operations. In the design world, reductive design is a synonymous concept. It’s applied to home goods, electronics, visual art, systems and just about anything that needs to work smoothly and effectively time and time again. 

What’s to gain from this minimalist idea of simplifying designs to their most necessary and impactful parts? People are more likely to use things that are simple, uncomplicated, and easy to adopt. Furthermore, fewer moving parts equals less room for error and less need for repair. 

Both KISS and reductive design promote ease of use and a simple, enjoyable user experience. If you bought a portable propane fire pit at Ikea. . . Would you feel confident using it? That’s why our Chief Eruption Officer and LavaBox creator, Josh, used the concept of reductive design to conceptualize the best propane fire pit on Earth. It’s ready to go outta’ the box, easy to understand, and seamless to set up when you’re in the backcountry and don’t have the internet to help you. No 40 page picturebook manual required. 


Meet the Godfather of Reductive Design

Dieter Rams—the man, the myth, the legend. Dieter Rams helped popularize reductive design. He’s also part of the inspiration behind the design that makes our favorite portable propane fire pits simple, reliable, and tough as rocks. 

Dieter Rams is an industrial designer (now retired) who shaped tons of the products we still use today. In 1955, Rams took a position at the popular German electrical products company, Braun. Eventually he became the chief of design at Braun, pioneering the concept of reductive design in homegoods and electronics. 

If you ever hang out in the design world, you may have come across one of Ram’s many claims to fame—his 10 Principles of Good Design. According to Rams, a “good” design should adhere to each of these commandments. 

  1. Is innovative

  2. Makes a product useful: “. . . Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.”

  3. Is aesthetic

  4. Makes a product understandable

  5. Is unobtrusive: “Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the users self-expression.”

  6. Is honest: “. . . It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.”

  7. Is long-lasting: “It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years—even in today's throwaway society.”

  8. Is thorough down to the last detail: “Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user.”

  9. Is environmentally friendly: “Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.”

  10. Involves as little design as possible: “Less, but better—because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. . .” 


Even if you’d never heard of Dieter Rams before today, you’ve likely experienced his principles of good design in action. Have you ever used an Apple product? Rams was credited as one of the leading inspirations behind Apple’s simple, minimalist products, software, and user interface. And (equally as important to modern life as Iphones and MacBooks) Rams 10 principles helped inspire LavaBox as we know it today. 


Keep Propane Fire Pits Simple, Stupid

With the power of reductive design in mind, the original LavaBox iterated and reiterated until it was widdled down to its most impactful parts. Reductive design lends itself well to a flame spewing, portable propane fire pit. Its ease of use and limited components help mitigate the risk of any component breaking down or failing to operate properly. The absence of excessive components also reduces the opportunity for potentially dangerous operator errors to occur. 

(We don’t want to claim that it’s so simple even stupid people can operate it safely. . . But it’s probably true.)

Our beloved campfire in a can has been meticulously narrowed down to just a few necessary and impactful components. 

  • A heavy duty, water-tight ammo can

  • A burner

  • A screen to cover the burner

  • A regulator hose to control the flow of propane

  • B.Y.O. propane tank 

  • A whole lotta love

And despite how stupidly simple that sounds, we decided to compare the LavaBox design to Dieter Rams 10 Principles of Good Design to determine whether our design for a portable propane fire pit is, in fact, a “good design”. I’ll let Josh, the inventor, chime in here:


  1. Is it innovative? Say less, baby. Innovation abounds with the LavaBox. LavaBox was the first to bring rectangle firepits to the market. If you look around, you quickly realize that humans love rectangles. We base our cites on “blocks” i.e. Rectangles. We try to arrange complex landscapes into quadrants. Heck, we even transform our homes into rectangles. Why? Because things with right angles fit together whether it is the back of your truck or cereal boxes. Not to mention the patent-pending burner design, Over/Under Grill Thingy and Burt’s Tank Top. 

2. Does the design make the product useful? As we hike into another Fall fire season we are all reminded of the usefulness of a fire pit that passes fire restrictions AND is truly safe. 

3. Is it aesthetic? Clean lines, sleek design, cool logo…yeah, LavaBox checks all the cool aesthetic boxes. Hehehe, boxes…get it?

4. Is the product understandable? People really get what we are trying to do. I always wanted to build a propane fire that would be adopted by the masses to help prevent wildfires. I think people see it and instantly fall in love with the rich, yellow flame that actually looks like a “real” fire. 

5. Is it unobtrusive? Of course the shape makes it “unobtrusive” in our world but I think there is more to this requirement. Although the application is novel, the ammo can has been quietly been a stallworth workhorse of the military. If you build something so simple yet so functional, it blends into the scenery. Like a great waiter at your favorite restaurant, everything is just right without being in your face.  

6. Is honest to the consumer? Steel box with a steel burner? Yeah, it’s honest. I want our entire company to live the same ethos as the humble ammo can: simple, obvious, transparent. 

7. Is it long-lasting and timeless? Steel and steel. Yeah, it’ll outlast you. 

8. Is it thorough down to the last detail? Every Detail has been considered. That’s why it’s so simple. 

9. Is it environmentally friendly? This is something I am very passionate about. I want every aspect of LavaBox from the core products to the packaging to be environmentally sound and something that our team can be proud of. Right now, the box itself is just about perfect. Every element can be recycled and reused. We’ll keep working on the other aspects of the business to reach carbon neutrality. 

10. Does it involve as little design as possible? The final product is a simple as it can possibly be. This is really tough for some folks to wrap their brains around. They want more. More structural support. More complexity in the burner. More adjustments. But, with all due respect, they are wrong. These are all fail points. The product functions how it should with great efficiency. Will I create a more complex burner in the future? Maybe. But right now, our campfire looks and feels like a campfire. 

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