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Consumers seek well-designed gadgets

Posted: 21 Nov 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPhone  consumer electronics  good design  routers 

A growing number of consumers are looking for well-designed gadgets that complement decor instead of cluttering desktops and clashing with furniture.

Many credit Apple Inc.'s iPhone, with its strikingly simple forms, for raising the bar on expectations for good design in consumer electronics.

And while art and design professionals say that gadgets like mobile phones and personal computers are becoming increasingly well-designed, they also say many electronic products still need to work on their appearance.

"Routers are awful; they're ugly," said Kai-wei Hsu, a 31-year-old furniture designer. "With a lot of things, you don't always get to choose."

Cisco Systems Inc. is trying to alter that reputation with the Linksys Ultra Range Plus Wireless-N Broadband Router, a slick black design—although it doesn't quite look like it's headed for the Museum of Modern Art's store just yet.

Most design and art professionals agree that looks shouldn't come at the expense of functionality and that the best designs are those that make the object easier or more fun to use.

Christopher Benton, an art buyer in New York, said that thoughtless design suggests poor performance.

"If something's clunky, doesn't have fluid lines, then I think it's probably the same inside as well," he said.

Many agree the iPhone is a prime example of good design in consumer electronics.

"It's really good technology, and has everything in it. It doesn't look like a gadget so much. It's something that's elegant and part fashion," said John Kudos, a 29 year-old graphic designer.

Kudos says he has noticed that computers and television sets have become sleeker over the years, and he's happy with the compact look of his external hard drive, My Book by Western Digital Corp.

"It's like a book sitting on the desk, and it blends in with the bookcase. That's nice: technology that disappears," he said.

Simplicity is also a theme for another design-centric storage manufacturer, Fabrik, although it prefers an organic feel to angular designs; and its bamboo-panelled hard-drive called [re]drive emphasises natural and recyclable materials.

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