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issue: April 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Concept Appliances
Waging a Conceptual War

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by Jill Russell, Senior Associate Editor

In the highly competitive and increasingly global appliance industry, OEMs have one primary target in mind when designing new products—the consumer.

Described at times as a cutthroat market, one thing is certain in the world of appliances—the competition never sleeps. And with more players entering the industry from around the globe, the adage can be taken quite literally.

Conducting market research studies, surveys and observational research has long been a part of a company’s product design process. In fact, trend tracking and demographic research are commonplace among OEMs. What sets them apart, however, are their individual approaches to these studies. And it is these differences to the design approach that positions a manufacturer as either a market leader or just another player in the popular appliance arena.

“It doesn’t matter if we have the best processes and the best ways of thinking. We should never forget that we are designing products for a consumer and the way of thinking is the roadmap to get there,” Henrik Otto, senior vice president of Global Design for Electrolux, stresses. “The consumer is the end user and should always be the focus. You have to be aware that the consumers are moving targets and that their expectations are always changing.”

As appliance designers keep the consumer at the forefront of their new product development process, several companies are incorporating new technologies and philosophies into appliance use, others are concentrating on overall forms and aesthetics to change the appliance landscape. The result: conceptual products and design projects that provide a glimpse into the future. Designed with the question of “what if” in mind, these concepts—products that are unlikely to be released as is, but definitely provide inspiration for new technologies in current products—spur the question of “why not” industry wide.

The following are just a few ways several players are approaching the product design process and have consequently impacted society with both past and future concepts—ultimately upping that ante against competitors and spurring the war in the home appliance industry to wage on, intensified by technology and aesthetics.

Simplicity Redesigned
The Kitchen of the Future?
Shaping (and Lighting) the Future
A Competitive Advantage
Redefining Ritualistic Behaviors
Fashionable Venting
Whirlpool’s conceptual BodyBox


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