Understanding design

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Mathias Tingström, who is responsible for the design of the recently launched Charisma collection – which includes a freestanding washing machine, a dishwasher and a fridge freezer – says that he takes inspiration for his designs from a wide range of sources. “We have ongoing research activities which generate consumer insights from different sources, such as consumer homes, shops or places of social interactions, such as clubs. It gives us an idea what are the main drives of the current trends.

“In addition to this, Whirlpool collects various insights about consumer habits and needs. Our design team also pays attention to the brand values of the company, and translates them into a design. We also look at the previous company products to check how they performed and what could be done to improve this.”

However, the most important is clear understanding of “the principal purpose of the product and making sure that when the product comes to market, it gives consumers the service which it was intended to give. From an aesthetic point of view, making the features intuitive and the product as easy to use as possible, is key”.

Competitive differences

I ask Mathias how he uses design to differentiate Whirlpool appliances from the competition.

“It is crucial to ensure that the design of a brand has something unique and closely reflects the needs of its target market. For example, KitchenAid products are made for professional and semi-professional cooks. Therefore they have to be robust, and the handles and controls have to be very easy to use. Moreover the customers of KitchenAid want to be in control of almost every function of their appliances, such as ovens, as they create their own recipes. For the Whirlpool consumers, product aesthetics is very important and they pay attention to materials and fine details of design indicative of how fashionable the appliance is. However, since they are busy professionals and homemakers, they are happy to allow the 6th Sense technology to optimize their washing or cooking programmes – saving them time and effort.”

The latest design trends

“In the freestanding sector, which is often perceived in an electrical store as a sea of white in which individual brands tend to disappear, the design challenge is to make appliances stand out. For example the Charisma collection has clear USPs such as soft, rounded edges of all appliances, chrome lines around LED displays and the absence of external handles.  Meanwhile in the built-in sector, the designer’s aim is to do the opposite – to blend appliances into the rest of the collection and the kitchen.

“Relatively recent, is the trend towards individualization. Designers are trying to help customers express themselves by developing multiple variants of products to reflect individual tastes and needs. Therefore we work on a variety of colours and finishes. Good examples of this are the bespoke patterned trims on Maytag refrigeration. In the integrated sector – the Whirlpool Glamour collection – with its deep rich mirror glass – shows how far the designer can go in making the kitchen a truly elegant room.

Advice for the retailer

Mathias thinks that that the retailer has a very important role to play in introducing appliance design to the consumer.

“I suggest that retailers adopt a holistic approach, especially to the freestanding appliances, by displaying full ranges in their stores. Seeing the common features of a collection of appliances consumers can appreciate their design and how it would work in the kitchen. Once a consumer sees the range of products together the impact is very strong.”

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