November 20, 2008

Consumers Want Well Designed Products Thanks To iPhone

A growing number of consumers are looking for well-designed gadgets, and many credit Apple Inc's iPhone for raising the bar on consumer expectations.

Art and design professionals say that though electronic devices such as mobile phones and personal computers are becoming increasingly more attractive, many products still need a lot of work.

"Routers are awful; they're ugly," said Kai-wei Hsu, a furniture designer. "With a lot of things, you don't always get to choose."

Cisco Systems hopes to change that with the Linksys Ultra Range Plus Wireless-N Broadband Router by giving it a sleek, black design.

Most art and design professionals agree the best designs make items easier to use.

"If something's clunky, doesn't have fluid lines, then I think it's probably the same inside as well," said Christopher Benton, an art buyer in New York.  According to Benton, thoughtless design suggests poor performance.

Most agree that the iPhone is a great example of good design.

"It's really good technology, and has everything in it. It doesn't look like a gadget so much. It's something that's elegant and part fashion," said John Kudos, a graphic designer.

Kudos says he has noticed that electronics have become sleeker over the years, giving his My Book external hard drive by Western Digital Corp. as an example.

"It's like a book sitting on the desk, and it blends in with the bookcase. That's nice: technology that disappears," he said.

One company, Fabrik, which prefers an organic feel to angular designs, and has teamed up with Pininfarina SpA, a company known for its work on Ferrari and Maserati auto designs to make a line of small hard drives.

"We want to be edgy; we want to be smart in what we're producing," said Stacey Lund, vice president of marketing at Fabrik.

According to many, good design is something that meets a need and changes people's perceptions.

Recently the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum awarded its "People's Design Award" to Zon, a hearing aid created by Stuart Karten Design.  Zon is a small hearing aid that looks a lot like a piece of jewelry, easing the anxiety over stigma one might feel while wearing a hearing aid.

"The success of Zon demonstrates that good design can indeed have a transformative impact on our everyday lives," said Paul Warwick Thompson, director of Cooper-Hewitt.


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