From beautiful washing machines to computer mice that look as if they belong in a design museum. We’re surrounded by design – and that can only be a good thing.
Pop into your local Argos today, and flick through the sprawling pages of its weighty tome of a catalogue. And, what strikes you? No, not the eight-foot trampoline for a bargain £99, or even the nifty inflatable remote-control airship that looks like it’s been stitched together from left-over foil blankets that marathon runners use. Nope, it’s the fact that page after page – from irons to vacuum cleaners to washing machines – everything has suddenly adopted a design identity that simply didn’t used to exist.
I remember washing machines as being nothing more than big, white, semi-erotic cubes. Now, thanks to Dyson, they’re translucent, and have the colour palette of a Crayola-sponsored playschool. The vacuum cleaner used to be beige last time I looked, now its yellow, purple, and red (Dyson, again). Irons were silver and white, with a red knob. Now, aqua-blue and sensuous curves are the order of the day. Aquariums are gorgeous, glowing globes, while table lights have somehow become orange, and squishy, overnight. We are literally surrounded by design.
And, thankfully, as digital content makers – more often than not clad in baggy, black industry t-shirts, and uniform khaki combat pants – design is making it into our everyday lives (if you discount vacuuming or ironing, which I know a number of you do anyway).
Apple started the trend. Soft whites may have taken over bondi blues, and a more harsh, metallic Power Mac replaced the smart, pinstripe versions of the past, but its ethos – it ain’t the technology, stupid, but its posing power and how well it goes with the washing machine – is filtering into every aspect of creative tools. I’m sure Wacom will soon either release a see-through tablet, or a tactile quill and digital ink set if the trend continues.
It’s no bad thing, though. Microsoft recently got in on the act by asking Philippe Starck to create a mouse. And did the über designer say a firm ‘Non’. Nope – he stepped up to bat and has produced something that you could attach wings to and pretend it’s a spaceship, or sell in an adult store as a luxury ‘neck massager’.
Surrounding ourselves with designed, stylized technology, that promotes form over function, is great news. Instead of sweating over GHz and CPUs – they’re all the same, anyhow – we can now lovingly stroke our workstations when we need to seek inspiration.
I see this going further. Designers in all industries have been honing interface design and interactive usage for years. Couple this with the smooth, clean lines of vector art, or the soft, subtle effects in movies, and if digital designers turned their attention to other products that clutter our studios, the results, I’m sure, will be quite staggering. My chair is looking a little sorry for itself at the moment. Boring, dark-blue cloth with some parts of its surface shiny through wear-&-tear. Along with my desk. That’s a bit knackered, too. So, don’t wait for Starck, let’s do it ourselves.