Can Designers Bring Aesthetic Appeal to Household Appliances?

Household appliances

Design is big business, and all products go through a rigorous design process before they are manufactured. For some lines aesthetics is a key requirement; no-one would be interested in buying an ugly lamp or chair for example. The appearance of such items is integral to their appeal to consumers, and thus is given primary consideration during development. For other items, form has been a lowly runner-up to function, and design has been focused on engineering rather than aesthetics. Household appliances have always fallen into the latter category, but is this set to change?

The shape of appliances

The basic shape of appliances has largely remained unchanged since their invention. If you look at pictures of early irons that were heated on stoves in the 19th century, the shape is almost identical to the electric irons in use today. Washing machines and dishwashers started off as kitchen-unit-shaped solid lumps, and are still kitchen-unit-shaped solid lumps. Why hasn’t there been any revolution in the appearance of these products? The simple answer is that their primary function is to perform a specific task, and there are constraints to the shapes and dimensions that will allow successful functioning. An iron must have a pointed nose to get to the trickiest seams and creases of your clothes, and a comfortable handle which distributes the weight of the iron to best effect. Washing machines and dishwashers need to fit neatly into kitchen-cupboard-sized holes, so there is little scope for making spherical or hexagonal units.

Design innovations

If practicalities take precedence over beauty, is there any scope for designers to improve the appearance of household appliances? Well, there have been some who have taken up the challenge and begun to change the accepted order. James Dyson has been doing this for some years now, starting by bringing a new perspective to the humble vacuum cleaner. Following his lead, other manufacturers have started rethinking their product design, and a browse through the range of vacuum cleaners available currently on a specialist website like Pick Vacuumcleaner will illustrate how form is becoming more of a consideration.

Next steps

The advancements in design may be proceeding at a slower pace than with less restricted products, but there is progress being made. While the box-shaped washing machine may still be dominant, there have been alterations in lines, curves, colors and finishes and drawer and door designs. Small changes, but ones that bring more personality and distinction to individual machines. Furniture designers have it easy in some ways – they have so much more flexibility in shape, form and materials for a chair or a table than an appliance. To see what has been winning awards, take a look at online for inspiration, where you can view the latest trends in appliance design.

The challenge of improving the aesthetics of household appliances is one that should be exciting and intriguing designers. There have been some impressive innovations in recent years, and it will be interesting to see if these first steps will lead to a revolution in appliance design.

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