Speaking exclusively to Kitchens & Bathrooms News, senior vice president of Digital Appliance design at Samsung Harry Choi explains how appliances are evolving to meet consumer tastes.
Q: What are the biggest consumer influences on appliance design?
A: Thanks to social media, providing consumers a high level of understanding of aesthetics and design, it really is a challenge for our designers.
Until the development of the internet or social media, designers had their own armour to create [appliances] with expert knowledge and methodology of design.
But nowadays the big challenge is the consumer is doing much, much better than designers.
Just a little bit of innovation or a well-refined design is not going to be chosen by consumers, so that is a really big challenge.
We did research, 10 years ago, on trends in the home environment and home appliance-related trends.
The findings, through UK researchers, predicted a trend called home indulgence.
Due to the change of economy in 2008, many young people decided to stay at home and became more focused on the home environment. That is called home indulgence.
They continually look for design trends and what objects could be in their home environment.
Through this exercise and training by themselves, they levelled up their point of view.
Q: How does the Bespoke refrigeration range meet these trends?
A: The product designer who was creating refrigerators would only think about the appliance design, rather than about how it can blend into the home environment.
We changed our mind-set about how to design refrigeration and look into what consumers want.
Appliances were considered a shameful item, which consumers wanted to hide away in the kitchen. There was an alternative solution, such as built-in product, but it’s more expensive.
Designers need to be able to serve the consumer who has a nice kitchen but doesn’t have enough money for built-in and Bespoke could be a good solution.
Q: The Bespoke refrigeration range can be built into furniture or used as a freestanding installation. It is modular and available in a choice of materials and colours. But how did you decide upon the final palette?
A: Offering four platforms, nine colours and two or three materials, when combined provides more than 20,000 combinations of Bespoke refrigeration.
The palette is divided into two ranges of colours – the first are quite moderate colours which are popular and will blend into any home environment, such as white and grey colours.
The other palette is seasonal colours, released each year, in order to give an accent.
We are also considering to develop dedicated colours for European cities.
Q: Samsung has openly spoken about designing for millennials, how do they differ from other generations?
We did a lot of internal research at to two different groups of industrial designers who are creating Samsung appliances – one group was Gen X and the other is the younger generation.
Their design preferences were completely different.
In the past, in order to be prominent, product would be in chrome but millennials really hate it.
Now a lot of design is very minimal garnishing and truly pure, monolithic mass.
But at the same time Baby Boomers and Gen X are still are important clients.
Q: Samsung is entrenched in the connected home; how does this meet the minimal fashion demands of millennials?
Over the last 10 years, manufacturers have not been able find a killer application which can give great value through connectivity of appliances.
But within five years, we will be able to offer invaluable connectivity through our appliances. I strongly believe it.
Within a couple of years, all the controls for appliances are going to be simple.
For instance washing machine with jog dials, currently feature a lot of buttons but all these will be simplified.
Thanks to connectivity, there will no need for consumers to control the appliance, in detail, and this will be the reason why we can create a simpler user experience.
Q: What will be the biggest global theme to impact appliance design now?
Of the global issues, urbanisation is the most important and will hugely our appliance design.
Refrigerator will be smaller but have expert functions, such as beverage-centric or vegetable-centric, dictated by lifestyle.
So a big refrigerator will be segmented and installed in different places.
In Germany, consumers go to laundrettes because they don’t have enough space for laundry appliances. This will have a big impact for us. Do we need to develop small washers or find another solution for laundering?