Apple is always the company that springs to mind when people think of outstanding consumer-product design. And while you may be tired of everyone throwing themselves at the altar of Steve Jobs, Apple consistently churns out innovative products that are defined by their beauty, intuitiveness, and usefulness—qualities that have forever influenced the way we think about and assess consumer goods.
So whether you’re buying a coffeemaker, laptop bag, or thermostat, you probably look first and foremost for a design that is pleasing to the eye and a joy to use. Those all make for a good products, but the very best examples do more than that, offering novel, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that approaches to such everyday activities as listening to music, reading a book, and changing the TV channel. Examples can be as commonsensical as a lamp with a built-in socket, obviating the need to crawl on the floor to plug in your laptop. (See Form Us With Love’s Plug light.)
Outstanding consumer products can be about making our life a little better, as Dieter Rams says. But at their most ambitious, they can solve the more fundamental problem of introducing us to brand-new technologies or ways of interacting with the world. The first iPhone was like this—just imagine how we’d view touch screens now, if that design problem had been botched. And a more recent example comes from the Lytro camera, whose every detail tells you that you’re using something unlike anything that ever came before it—from the unique way you hold it, to the dead-simple buttons on its case.
All of which is to say that extraordinary consumer products perform multiple tasks well, without confusing the user by adding a bunch of extra keys and baffling features. And that’s one of the invaluable lessons that have trickled down from Apple over the years into just about every product category.
We invite you, the reader, to tell us about consumer products you think leave others like them in the dust. And if you think you’ve created one of them, we’d love if you’d consider entering our Innovation By Design Awards.
- consumer electronics
- personal-care items
Paola is a senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art. She has lectured worldwide in settings ranging from peer conferences to global interdisciplinary gatherings and has served on international architecture and design juries. Antonelli’s goal is to promote design’s understanding, until its positive influence on the world is fully acknowledged.
Joe is the CPO and co-founder of Airbnb, a global network of accommodations offered by locals. Gebbia defines the Airbnb experience and is dedicated to creating an inspiring and effortless user experience through sharp, intuitive design, and crafts the product roadmap to make it so. Gebbia values products that simplify life and have a positive impact on the environment, and ensures that the company adheres to these tenets.
Matt is CEO and principal at the design consultancy Berg. He and his firm work with companies to research and develop their technologies and strategy, primarily by finding opportunities in networks and physical things. Berg has designed numerous products including Mag+, Suwappu, and the Little Printer.
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