Published on May 6th, 2020 | by The GC Team0
Design can be as diverse as the personalities it indulges, but behind the façade must lie the substance to address real-life challenges and needs. GC reports
Design is subjective. One person’s shabby chic is another person’s Tat… one person’s beige is another’s Boring… one person’s minimalism is another’s Cold… and flamboyant colour is another’s migraine.
Industrial is, well, industrial. It speaks to the professional chef, or those who aspire to be, for others it says factory, workshop, places of toil.
Modern contemporary – “contemporary” becoming an indefinable word in the eclectic world of design, but in kitchen terms the perceived statement is show, display, clean, clutter-less, open-plan and airy.
The country look: Twee or bold? Both exist. But it is a look which imagines warmth, cooking, hearty meals, family gatherings… and it is not purely the reserve of the rural dweller, it is equally desirable for townies seeking, or wishing to recreate, the pastoral dream.
Retro 50s, now there’s a poser. For those who remember the scullery, the pastel coloured Frigidaire or Servis fridge, or the occasional neighbour who could afford one, the strange 50s fish wallpaper (How odd was that!?), times, in general, were frugal. The memory – teeny workrooms, lino, few worksurfaces, washboards, outdoor mangles – is not one some would wish to return to. Reminiscence is one thing, but an everyday symbol of those times in the home is a step too far.
For others, of course, retro appliances are deemed icons, particularity by Millennials, or Generation Y as the demographers’ alphabet soup will have it, and the later Generation Z.
Design and purpose
“Elegant products not equalled by modern functionality, or those which look straight out of the 50s but perform like antiques, won’t cut the mustard.”
But design is about more than style, it’s also about substance, as many misguided consumers will, to their great disappointment, have discovered. As Lucy Dunstan, product manager UK & Ireland for Smeg, the brand famed for its 50s-style FAB fridge, puts it: “Great aesthetics are worthless without great functionality.”
Commenting on what constitutes the cornerstone of good design, Dunstan says: “Simplicity and clarity of vision, because communication is key. Know what you want to say, have confidence in it, and make the statement clearly and boldly.” This can be expressed in a variety of ways, Dunstan maintains, citing the brand’s 50s-style range which captures the nostalgia of a bygone era but with a modern twist.
Catherine Balderson, Senior Hotpoint Brand Manager, believes good design empowers a brand because it leaves a lasting impression with the consumer. “Aesthetics draw the customer’s attention in the showroom, which is why the exterior design of the appliance is so important. Impressive functionality of appliances, however, is what ultimately drives a sale. Hotpoint believes there is no great result without the care and passion of impressive design behind it.” She adds that innovations from Hotpoint are driven by consumer needs, resulting in appliances that empower the user to care for what they value most.
Design and principles
“Technology for technology’s sake is a no-no”
Design keeps the electrical industry alive by encouraging consumers to buy the next, bigger, better, best or most stylish products on the market. But technology for technology’s sake is a no-no. Not only is it costly and wasteful, but it causes consumer confusion. Striking the right balance is the difficult part, as noted by Andreas Enslin, Head of Design at Miele, who concurs with the philosophy of German industrial designer Dieter Rams.
Rams said in his 10 principles of design: ‘good design is as little design as possible’. “Unfortunately, omission is the difficult part,” Enslin asserts. “It is only when things are as simple as possible and no longer contain the superfluous and when each and every detail has been thought through and mastered that we become fascinated by the simplicity and elegance of a solution. But the act of omission requires great effort and this is the only way for things to acquire significance. There is simply too much that is loud and superfluous already.”
“The way we live, interact, and what’s important to us as consumers is in constant flux”
Fisher & Paykel takes a themed approach to design based on a philosophy rooted in understanding the macro changes that form consumers’ different patterns of use – themes such as sociability, ergonomics, nutrition, changing cooking styles and respect for the planet.
“Our world is changing at a pace never seen before,” comments Mark Elmore, VP Design and Brand. “The way we live, interact, and what’s important to us as consumers is in constant flux. We call it Design for a Changing World. It is the result of macro changes in the way we live, and these relate directly to our beliefs on health and wellbeing.”
A generational shift has occurred, Elmore points out. Millennials are now the largest consumer group globally and with them come a different set of values: “A willingness to spend disposable income, a deep care for food and its provenance, a love of design and a desire for the finer things. They are looking for something fresh, new and authentic. Global lifestyles, cultures, mobility and urbanisation are distinct but intertwined.”
Design and value
Design is a complex business which embraces aesthetics, purpose and function – having any one without the others fails the underlying principles of the process. It is an expensive procedure involving formulae, technique, enterprise and proficiency, and because it perpetually evolves, good design is no longer the preserve of society’s well heeled, but is accessible to all.
“Beautiful design and innovative technology eventually trickles down to most price points,” comments Indesit Brand Manager Sara Bazeley. “Built-in appliances with incredible functionality, time-saving technology and stunning design are now available at a range of price points in the market, meaning that consumers do not need to overspend to achieve the look and finish that they desire.”
While design feeds down to the mid and lower-level brands, it remains important that substance is not sacrificed for style. Elegant products not equalled by modern functionality, or those which look straight out of the 50s but perform like antiques, won’t cut the mustard. And in today’s world of rapid, often reckless, communication, brand reputations are at stake.
Paying the price
“Consumers seeking a luxury appliance will look no further than brands within the super-premium sector of the market”
So as the price of products diminishes, what drives consumers to pay for those manufactured by top-end brands? Whirlpool Brand Manager Charmaine Warner points out that consumers have always been willing to pay more for premium style and design, and a large price tag has often been seen to reflect the substance of the product, “allowing the consumer to show-off their appliances.” However, she concedes that the reproduction of great design moving further down the market for a wider variety of consumers to enjoy, has resulted in manufacturers having to become ever-more competitive in recent years.
Smeg’s Dunstan maintains premium brands offer a level of attention to detail and innovation that some other brands simply can’t match and Smeg’s strong heritage offers the consumer a sense of reassurance: “They can be sure they are getting quality and innovation that will stand the test of time. It is these things combined which incentivises consumers to pay more for premium-branded appliances.”
Lee Collett, Kitchen Channel Director at KitchenAid, holds a passionate view that consumers seeking a luxury appliance will look no further than brands within the super-premium sector of the market. “KitchenAid is synonymous with iconic design, which has empowered the brand for almost a century,” he effuses. “Characteristic, sublime design has the potential to make an appliance, and therefore a brand, timeless and distinctive. KitchenAid breathes remarkable design recognisable for its excellence.”
GDHA Head of Product Marketing Steve Dickson believes consumers choosing a premium brand and appliance are looking for and expect added value, while Hoover Candy’s Steve Macdonald – business director for freestanding – maintains consumers are looking to buy into a brand they trust.
Selling the goods
For retailers selling great design, the challenge is to ensure that products’ first visual impressions, which are the main attention-grabber in-store, are given full scope to work their magic. But equally important is the facility for shoppers to test the products in-store.
Hoover Candy’s Macdonald maintains retailers should have interactive displays which showcase new features such as in-built TV screens: “Placing a tablet next to the product with pre-loaded brand apps will allow the consumer to trial controlling and monitoring the appliance(s) in demo mode.”
Macdonald also urges retailers to display manufacturers’ marketing materials and believes utilising brand ambassadors will help build trust with the customer.
Hisense UK Marketing Manager Alistair Orr adds: “Consumers love to be able to see and interact with the products. In-store presence and eye-catching showrooms create a sense of ‘home’, helping consumers envisage the products within their kitchens. Letting the consumer interact with the product will encourage them to imagine how much simpler it could make day-to-day life and therefore benefit purchasing decisions.”
Whirlpool’s Charmaine Warner concludes: “Design, style, colour and aesthetics are incredibly important factors today with the ongoing demand for open-plan living, so make sure to display colour choices, materials and formats in aspirational lifestyle settings. It’s also important to ensure the showroom has suitable models, both on display and in stock, to suit your target audience.”