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issue: August 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Guest Editorial
Enlightened Design is Crucial


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by Phil Brandl, president, International Housewares Association

In today’s highly competitive and consolidating housewares market, the importance of innovation through design cannot be overestimated, particularly in appliances.

Phil Brandl, president, International Housewares Association

The International Housewares Association’s (IHA) participation in the Housewares Design Awards, now in its fourth year, serves to highlight the crucial role that design plays in our industry, while sending a message to consumers and our broader community that innovation is now a way of business life.
Well-designed small electrics bring excitement and vitality to the market, offer better value to consumers and increase sales. “Consumers are tuned into design thanks to companies that use design strategically in their marketing and merchandising,” says Vicki Matranga, IHA’s design programs coordinator. “You can’t pick up a newspaper or visit a Web site without an element of design popping out.
“A vast array of products are improved or made more saleable through design. Today’s designers focus not only on appearance, but functionality, usability and materials and finishes,” she adds. “Color is everywhere in this industry and there are all sorts of wonderful new materials and finishes.”
While functionality is crucial to consumers, there also is an important psychological and emotional aspect to good design. Product placement has become a real science, with magazines and TV shows increasingly catering to people who spend much of their psychic energy shopping and looking for trendy, “cool” items with which they can identify. Buying into design has become a personal statement and a “vote” by affiliation.
In 2006, the Housewares Design Awards honored 13 products as best in category from among 65 finalists. Finalists were selected from more than 250 entries. Small electrics categories included cooking electrics (grills, toasters, coffeemakers, ovens); food preparation (blenders, choppers, knife sharpeners, coffee mills); floor care electrics (vacuums, steamers); home environment electrics (air cleaners, fans heaters, humidifiers); personal care (hair dryers, electric blankets, garment care); and lighting, home décor and outdoor living (spa devices, outdoor patio appliances, fountains).
The awards are sponsored by Homeworld Business with educational support from IHA. The submission deadline for the 2007 awards is Oct. 20, 2006, with the competition open to any company that makes and markets housewares products. The submitted product must have been for sale at retail any time from Oct. 1, 2005 to Sept. 30, 2006. This time period requirement ensures that competition judges can know of retailers’ responses and that the product submitted is the manufactured product and not a prototype unavailable in the market.
A multi-disciplinary jury of housewares designers, retail buyers and design advocates reviews all products submitted. Last year, as part of the judging process, judges peeled and sliced, spun salads, brewed coffee and vacuumed rugs to evaluate the products in action. They did everything, in fact, except take the products apart in order to test user interface, comfort and safety.

The judges consider:
• unique appearance and/or function
• recognized or unrecognized consumer needs addressed by the
product
• appropriate aesthetics
• innovative marketing, materials or technology
• user benefits: performance, safety, comfort, ease of use
• appropriate pricing
• emotional appeal

Five finalists are selected for each category and the Best in Category winners are announced and honored at a gala luncheon in New York City in January.
Small appliance manufacturers and marketers are leading the way in the use of design. Those who wish to be recognized for their product innovation are invited to enter their latest products. Further information on the Housewares Design Awards competition and entry forms are available on IHA’s Web site at www.housewares.org

 

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