Technology has done amazing things. It allows us to carry computers in our pockets, fly small airplanes from our phones, and even control our home systems from anywhere in the world. While the utility that technology has brought to our lives is undeniable, one thing is missing: beauty.
Too many gadgets have prioritized technology and utility over seamless integration into our lives for far too long. The dominant material for many household appliances and appliances is black plastic. That was fine as we were learning how to make technology more affordable and accessible to the masses, but now that we’re there, why are so many products lacking in inspired design?
There are huge tomes devoted to design and we could easily get carried away with the definition of beauty and what good design really is. For today, let’s just say that we ask for gadgets and devices that fit into our lives – and don’t stand out.
Smart gadgets that integrate seamlessly
Think of gadgets like the Samsung Frame TV, which in my own home has been so successful as a work of art in our room that many guests sit next to it on multiple visits before even realizing it’s actually a TV. The option to add wooden frames only increases the 65-inch 4K TV’s ability to hide in plain sight.
Google has also made great strides with its newer Nest Audio speakers. With a soft, cloud-like shape and an eco-friendly pastel fabric sleeve, these digital butlers don’t scream “I’m a smart talker!” in any way. Even the indicator lights on it appear only when needed and then disappear into the background.
There’s also the beautiful simplicity of a device like this ; The cleaning technique is hidden under a mound of living moss surrounded by a terrarium-like glass dome. If you’ve seen other air purifiers out there, you know that they’re often huge plastic boxes that pout heavily on surfaces and take up valuable visual space. Briiv is a literal breath of fresh air in terms of design.
But where is the rest of the design beauty in our technology and gadgets?
These gadgets need a thoughtful facelift
Take robot vacuum cleaners. They are the same size, color, shape and material almost everywhere: black plastic. While some companies like Ecovacs and iRobot are taking tiny steps to beautify them (softer colors, brushed metal, leather pull tabs), they’re still miles away from blending into our homes. For example, why couldn’t a robotic vacuum cleaner have a natural-looking exoskeleton made of, say, bamboo or leather? The ECOVACS X1 robot vacuum currently has a removable brushed silver plastic cover on top of the robot, but this might as well be a more natural looking and sustainable material. While we’re at it, could the new wave of giant, auto-drain vacuum base stations look more like a small side table than a Fisher Price Little People garage?
Smart door locks are another glaring example of technology that stands out badly. Perhaps the smart locks of the future will seamlessly integrate with the metal knobs and handles we already use, or perhaps they could exist as glass panels or LED screens that can match the color of the door. In fact, some companies like Masonite are starting to think this way, incorporating power, Wi-Fi, a ring video doorbell, and a Yale smart door lock into the overall design and construction of the Masonite M-Pwr door. There’s still a long way to go before it’s incorporated.
Fitbit’s Aria 2 smart scale is an unassuming slab of glass, but what if you could take a picture of your bathroom floor and apply it to the surface of your smart bathroom scale to blend into your unique space?
With the Bespoke line, Samsung is starting to take this into account when designing larger kitchen appliances as well. Consumers can choose from a variety of configurations and colored panels that can either eclipse refrigerators and dishwashers or boldly draw attention with the rest of the space.
If companies want us to adopt more smart speakers and digital assistants, have TVs in every room, a robot vacuum cleaner on every floor, and things like smart alarm clocks and smart scales so we can have a more seamless relationship with all these amazing new gadgets, then thoughtful design must keep pace with intelligent technology.