A guide to appliance design
If you're a professional working in the product design space, you understand the challenges of creating innovative, effective products that stand out in a crowded market. And if you're specifically focused on home and electrical appliances, you know that this industry requires a unique set of skills and insights.
That's where this home appliance design guide comes in. We're dedicated to providing you with the knowledge, resources, and best practices you need to design top-notch appliances that meet the demands of modern consumers.
From understanding the latest trends and emerging technologies to refining your design process and perfecting your prototyping methods, this guide is here to help you succeed. Think of it as your trusted partner in appliance design - ready to guide you every step of the way, and committed to your success.
Keep in mind, we will not go through every step of introducing a new product to the market per se. If you’re interested in a more complex, business approach, subscribe to our newsletter and get a free e-book on new product development. You can subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.
“Form follows function” or “Form is the function”?
While the saying 'form follows function' has long been a guiding principle in product design, the reality is that for many consumers, form can be just as important as function, if not more so. This is especially true in the world of home appliances, where a product's appearance can have a significant impact on its overall appeal.
Take the example of a toaster - while every toaster is designed to perform the same basic function of toasting bread, the consumer's decision to purchase one toaster over another is often based on factors such as its appearance, its compatibility with their kitchen's overall design, and how well it fits with their personal aesthetic preferences.
In this sense, it could be argued that for home appliances, form is often just as crucial as function - and in some cases, may even outweigh it.
How consumer style sensitivity changed over decades
Product development, production, and promotion all saw radical shifts during the industrial age. Manufacturers began to try out new materials and designs as mass manufacturing techniques improved, resulting in an array of cutting-edge, eye-catching kitchen and laundry room equipment.
Jay Raymond, Streamlined Irons
Art Deco was the first significant style of the modern industrial era, appearing in the 1920s and 1930s. Art Deco was distinguished by its use of geometric forms, vivid color schemes, and streamlined aesthetic. Notable Art Deco designers include Coca-Cola bottle creator Raymond Loewy and Bell telephone inventor Henry Dreyfuss.
Flair stove line by Frigdaire
Mid-Century Modern, a style popular in the 1940s and 1950s, emphasized practicality and efficiency. A sense of optimism and futurism typically accompanied this style's emphasis on minimalism, sleek lines, and all-natural materials. Charles and Ray Eames, designers of the classic Eames lounge chair, and Norman Bel Geddes, inventor of the first fully automatic dishwasher, were two of the most influential designers of the 20th century.
Lamp design by Vico Magistretti
Space Age is a design movement that evolved in the 1960s and 1970s, influenced by the optimism of the space race and the hope for a better tomorrow. This design era was distinguished by its use of bright hues, futuristic silhouettes, and cutting-edge materials like plastic and fiberglass. Notable designers from this time period include Joe Colombo, creator of the iconic "Tube" chair, and Luigi Colani, innovator of numerous cutting-edge household gadgets.
Juicy Salif lemon squeezer by Philippe Starck for Alessi
Postmodernism, a more simple and subdued style that arose in the 1980s and 1990s, was a reaction against the futuristic designs of the preceding decades. The rise of postmodern art and architecture impacted this style, which was typically characterized by a sense of humor and sarcasm. Notable designers of the time included Naoto Fukasawa, creator of the minimalist and stylish Muji toaster, and Philippe Starck, designer of the classic Juicy Salif citrus squeezer.
The design of home appliances has changed over the years due to developments in customer tastes and technological innovations. While the design trends of the past were mostly dictated by manufacturing technology restrictions, the design trends of today are very diversified and often go beyond looks, touching on material design, repairability, sustainability, and their impact on the environment. There is a broad variety of designs from which to choose the appropriate home appliances for your area, ranging from sleek and minimalist to vibrant and colorful statement pieces. Whether your clients are in the market for a retro-style Art Deco toaster or a cutting-edge Space Age refrigerator, you'll find plenty of options.
How to find the right style for your home appliance design
Designing a home appliance that is both functional and beautiful requires a good understanding of the latest trends and consumer behavior. One way to find inspiration is by researching the styles and designs of competing brands in the market. You can use this information to identify emerging trends and to get a better sense of what consumers are looking for in a product.
Another way to find inspiration is by looking outside the industry for new and interesting ideas. Take a cue from fashion, architecture, and interior design. By incorporating elements from these other fields, you can create a product that is truly unique and eye-catching.
But how do you go about finding the right style for your product? One approach is to start with your target audience. Who are you designing for? What are their needs and preferences? What are the current trends in their demographic? Answering these questions will help you narrow down your options and choose a style that will appeal to your target audience.
Steam cooker (Steamie) visual concepts, by Mindsailors
If you decide to work with a group of experts on designing a home appliance I recommend you contact our design team for a short, initial call to see if we might be a good fit for your project. You can set up a call HERE or use our contact form.
You can also look at the current trends in the market. What colors, materials, and shapes are popular right now? What styles are emerging as new and exciting? By keeping up with the latest trends, you can create a product that is both contemporary and timeless.
Another important factor to consider is the function of your product. While form is important, it should never come at the expense of function. Your product must still perform its intended purpose effectively, even if it looks great while doing so. Keep in mind that while consumers are drawn to attractive designs, they will not compromise on functionality.
Finally, don't be afraid to think outside the box. Experiment with different shapes, colors, and materials to create a product that truly stands out from the competition. Consider the use of unconventional materials, such as wood or glass, to create a unique look and feel.
And remember - while it's important to stay up to date with the latest design trends, it's also essential to think about the longevity of your product. A timeless design can help ensure that your product remains relevant and desirable even after trends have come and gone. It requires a different approach than designing for current market trends. It means creating a design that is classic, functional, and beautiful, all at the same time. This requires careful thought and consideration, but it can pay off in the long run.
Designing for timelessness means that you have to make bold decisions that go against market trends. It requires a willingness to take risks and break away from the status quo. When you design for timelessness, you are designing for the future, not just for the present. You are creating a product that will remain relevant and desirable for years to come, rather than one that will be quickly forgotten. This is not an easy task, but it can be incredibly rewarding.
Briefing your design team
A comprehensive design brief is a crucial tool in the product design and development process. It outlines the specifications and requirements for the new home appliance and ensures that the design team or industrial design company has a clear understanding of the project's goals and objectives.
To prepare a comprehensive brief for designing a new home appliance, there are several elements to consider. Firstly, provide a detailed description of the product's intended function and the target market. This includes defining the appliance's primary and secondary functions, identifying its key features, and outlining the intended user experience.
Secondly, it's important to establish the technical requirements of the product, such as its power source, dimensions, weight, and material requirements. If there are any regulatory or compliance requirements, these should also be included in the brief.
Next, it's important to provide an overview of the desired aesthetic and design direction. This includes identifying any style preferences or trends that the product should align with, as well as outlining any brand guidelines that need to be adhered to.
In addition, it can be helpful to include any design inspiration or reference materials that can help communicate the desired aesthetic and design direction to the design team.
Lastly, the design brief should outline the project timeline, budget, and any other constraints that may impact the design process. This ensures that the design team has a clear understanding of the project scope and can develop a design solution that meets the project's requirements.
Home appliance design process
The design process for home appliances is no different to designing any other type of product. At least in its principle of course. If you’re interested in the details of our Mindsailors Product Development Process go listen to this episode of IDology - the Industrial Design podcast.
The product development process in general consists of these six steps:
Where we confirm all of your briefs assumptions
- Conceptual design
Where we develop visual concepts for your product
- Targeted conceptual design
Where we develop details of your chosen design
- Mechanical design
Where we engineer prototypes
- Design for manufacturing
Where we build a “golden sample” and prepare manufacturing documentation
- Manufacturing supervision
Where we work with your manufacturer to assure the best possible quality of your first manufacturing batches.
One example of our designs for home appliances is this blender design for Zelmotor.
We designed three aesthetic approaches after considering factors like the dependability of the control, the stability of the stand's construction, the ease with which different types of accessories may be attached to it, the usage of magnets to identify the accessories, and so on.
Convenient buttons, dials, touch keys, equipment opening hooks, a nice and secure grip on the cup, smooth speed control, and a large and clear LCD display are all examples of design and construction choices that contribute to the product's ergonomics.
Prototyping: Bringing Your Design to Life
Prototyping is a crucial step in the home appliance design process. It allows designers and engineers to test and refine their ideas, and ensure that their designs will function properly and meet the needs of users. There are many different types of prototypes that can be created during the design process, each serving a different purpose.
The first type of prototype is the proof-of-concept prototype. This type of prototype is used to test the basic functionality of a design idea. It is often built using simple materials, such as cardboard or foam, and does not need to be a fully functional version of the product. The purpose of the proof-of-concept prototype is to test the viability of the design concept and ensure that it meets the intended goals and requirements.
Once the proof-of-concept prototype has been successfully tested, the next step is to create a working prototype. This type of prototype is designed to be as close to the final product as possible, and is often built using more advanced materials and manufacturing processes. The purpose of the working prototype is to test the functionality of the design in a real-world setting, and to identify any potential issues that may arise during production.
Once the working prototype has been tested and refined, the next step is to create a “golden sample”. This is a fully functional version of the product that is built using surrogate materials and manufacturing processes to the ones that will be used for mass production. This prototype is created in cooperation with the manufacturing facility of choice during a process called design for manufacturing. It ensures the golden sample will be able to serve as a master copy for mass manufacturing.
The prototyping process can take some time, depending on the complexity of the design and the number of prototypes that need to be created. It is important to allow enough time for prototyping in the design schedule, as this will ensure that the final product is as functional and reliable as possible.
In addition to testing the functionality of the design, prototyping can also have an impact on other aspects of the product, such as assembly, scratch or heat resistance, ease of cleaning and handling, etc. . By identifying and addressing potential issues early on in the design process, the overall production and assembly process can be streamlined and optimized.
A word on time and budget
Gathering all the business information you need and designing the product itself are just two steps of a longer process. Marketing, assembly, packaging, logistics, distribution - there is a plethora of legal, accounting and planning work aside from the design process itself. Brining a home appliance to market may take a year, or three years or even more, depending on your experience, budget and the complexity of the project. And that’s being optimistic. You need to be aware of the commitment that’s ahead of you. Especially if you’re planning on producing bigger volumes of your product. The more time you spend on developing it, the more time, and money you will save in production, assembly, distribution, recalls, warranties, etc.
Speaking of budget - plan accordingly and plan for the long run. This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. Initial research and development, up to building a fully functional and visually satisfying prototype is only the first and indeed a small step in your NPD budget, and will consume at least in the tens of thousands of dollars. DFM, tooling, manufacturing, logistics, assembly, legal, marketing ... all that is a multitude of the initial cost. If you're not ready for that, consider building a prototype in order to acquire funding for the rest of the journey. After all no one has sailed the world on their own!
If you're interested in knowing more about budgeting product development you should check out this episode of IDology - the Industrial Design Podcast:
Designing a home appliance requires a delicate balance of form and function, trend and timelessness, and a comprehensive understanding of the target market and production process.
For a more detailed overview of the whole new product development process subscribe below to our newsletter to get a free e-book on bringing a new product to market. It applies to all types of products, including home appliance development.
If you need to contact experts to help you with your new product please consider working with us. We are a team of industrial design experts dedicated to their craft. You can contact our team HERE or set up an initial call HERE.
Schedule an initial talk and get to know us better! You already have a basic brief? Send it over so we can have a more productive first meeting!