To satisfy consumers who are more digitally connected than ever — and increasingly in pursuit of the next big thing in technology — industrial designers are finding new and innovative ways to integrate technology into design.
Kitchens have benefitted greatly from this new partnership—resulting in the development of products such as countertops with built-in touchscreens and high-end cooktops run by magnets.
These items are not only practical, but in many cases they’re more efficient than their tech-challenged predecessors. And in cases where their practicality might be in question, they win over skeptics with beautiful, sleek design.
THE EVOLUTION OF DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY PARTNERSHIP
James Arnold, an Industrial Design instructor at The Art Institute of Portland, asserts that throughout the history of product and industrial design, there has always been a need to appropriately blend user needs and desires with available technology, materials, manufacturing processes, and production.
As these technologies and processes evolved, both consumers and manufactures realized the benefits.
“New technologies can offer functional and aesthetic improvements to products from the user’s perspective and they can offer cost savings to the manufacturer in some cases,” Arnold says.
He states that the types of technology typically integrated with design include electronics, interfaces, structures, and systems.
As an industrial designer, Arnold looks at ergonomics, fashion, style, brand differentiation, cost savings, and efficiency when determining which technology should be selected for a particular design. He adds that both design and technology must meet a variety of needs— from both the users’ and manufacturer’s perspectives.
“If the technology integration increases profits by reducing the costs of production and materials — and offers the customer a functional or aesthetic benefit — then it will definitely be considered,” Arnold says.
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON?
There are few places where design and technology integrate more perfectly than in the kitchen. The next generation of appliances is energy efficient, eye-pleasing, and (perhaps most importantly) fun to use.
And they rely on technology that sometimes sounds like it’s straight out of The Jetsons.
In the article “The Ultimate Kitchen Upgrade,” CNN Money writer Sally Schultheiss discusses the magic of magnetic induction stovetops, which may one day replace gas or electric as the cooking power of choice.
Induction cooktops are powered by a powerful magnetic copper coil that creates a high-frequency electromagnetic field, according to Schultheiss. When the coil’s magnetic field meets a pot made of magnetic material, the magic begins. The pot heats up, but nothing else does. The cooktop stays cool and no ventilation is required.
So far, this technology has appealed mostly to high-end buyers — and high-end manufacturers such as Bosch, Electrolux, Thermador, and Wolf. But Schultheiss asserts that once a cook tries induction, it may be difficult to return to the old standbys of gas and electric.
For techies who need to stay connected while magnetically cooking their meals, Samsung has created the Prisma Kitchen, Unveiled at this year’s EuroCucina (the International Kitchen Furniture Exhibition), the Prisma Kitchen features prismatic shapes, gleaming surfaces, and an interactive bench top with a touch screen and internet connection, according to Core77.
“Designed for tech savvy home chefs, the Prisma kitchen picks up on the trend of tablet computers migrating to the kitchen, and then takes that idea to the next level,” say Core77’s writers.
SUCCESSES AND FAILURES
The process of meeting user demand for more interesting and eye-pleasing designs has produced both successes and flops.
Arnold cites plug-and-play computer peripherals and USB portable devices as products he can appreciate.
“These smart electronic devices that do the thinking for you are great because they free you up to focus on dealing with your work rather than the technology,” Arnold says.
He also mentions the integration of design and technology that allow for wireless printing or input as positive.
But this level of connectedness comes with drawbacks, according to Arnold — most notably in-car technology that can distract drivers who should be focused on the road. He also mentions the loss of face-to-face conversations and diminished personal relationships that can result from technology overuse.
The integration of design and technology will continue to result in innovative and exciting products for consumers. For designers, experimenting with form, function, and technology means opportunities to create products that can change our homes — and our lives.
Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite