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Redesigning Consumer Electronics With Old-School Craftsmanship

Our tech tends to be impersonal. Does it have to be?

  • <p>Ariane Prin's Rust Timepiece is made from 12 sections of metal that are individually oxidized to achieve a color gradient when jigsawed together.</p>
  • <p>Bethan Laura Wood's Criss Cross Bloom sconce is made from glass and inspired by a trip to Mexico.</p>
  • <p>Bilge Nur Saltik's Loud Objects are marble tabletop accessories that hide Bluetooth speakers.</p>
  • <p>Daniel Weil's 100 Objects Series 3 reveals the workings of an electrical circuit.</p>
  • <p>Front and Loligo's Surface Tension Lamp contrasts the longevity of an LED bulb with the ephemerality of a soap bubble shade.</p>
  • <p>Future Facility's Busby USB Lamp</p>
  • <p>HEKA's Solar Ascent is a kinetic sculpture that moves through a series of pendulums and cogs to disperse fragrance through a room.</p>
  • <p>Jeongwon Ji's Tactile Sound speaker's volume control has a surface that transitions from smooth to rough. The coarser the texture, the louder the music.</p>
  • <p>Lina Patsiou's Eclipse lamp is inspired by sun beams.</p>
  • <p>Map's AKQA Seeker is a compass-like object that points to a destination programmed into the device.</p>
  • <p>Marjan van Aubel's Dichoric Light changes from a mirror to a colorful light thanks to a special film applied to the surface that reacts to light.</p>
  • <p>The Vamp by Paul Cocksedge enables any speaker to play music via Bluetooth streaming.</p>
  • <p>Poetic Lab's Silo Clock is both a kinetic sculpture and a wall clock.</p>
  • <p>Rive Roshan's Circadian Tapestry is essentially a motorized artwork that constantly rotates to reveal different color combinations.</p>
  • <p>ROLI's Seaboard RISE is a synth with a squishy keyboard--<a href="https://www.fastcodesign.com/1672208/ui-genius-a-synthesizer-with-a-squishy-keyboard" target="_self">an act of UI genius</a>.</p>
  • <p>Studio Drift's Dandelight is made from a real dandelion with LED bulbs individually glued to each seed.</p>
  • <p>Studio Furthermore's Lacuna lamp features a low-tech mouth-blown glass shade and LED light source.</p>
  • <p>Studio Tord Boontje's Hairy Creature Speakers turn standard-issue speakers into a furry sculptures.</p>
  • <p>Thorunn Arnadottir's Shapes of Sounds combines soundboards from discarded toys and puts them into abstract cases of his own design.</p>
  • <p>Wonseok Jung's The Time Belt shows the passage of time as a linear progression.</p>
  • <p>Yamaha's YEV-104 electric violin contrasts digitally produced sound with a natural wood body.</p>
  • <p>Yoav Reches and Nan Zhao's Flex Shade is made from a single flexible circuit board.</p>
  • <p>Yuri Suzuki's Quest-ce que cest uses the shape of a '70s boombox, but reduces the components down to the bare minimum to achieve a wireframe look.</p>
  • 01 /23

    Ariane Prin's Rust Timepiece is made from 12 sections of metal that are individually oxidized to achieve a color gradient when jigsawed together.

  • 02 /23

    Bethan Laura Wood's Criss Cross Bloom sconce is made from glass and inspired by a trip to Mexico.

  • 03 /23

    Bilge Nur Saltik's Loud Objects are marble tabletop accessories that hide Bluetooth speakers.

  • 04 /23

    Daniel Weil's 100 Objects Series 3 reveals the workings of an electrical circuit.

  • 05 /23

    Front and Loligo's Surface Tension Lamp contrasts the longevity of an LED bulb with the ephemerality of a soap bubble shade.

  • 06 /23

    Future Facility's Busby USB Lamp

  • 07 /23

    HEKA's Solar Ascent is a kinetic sculpture that moves through a series of pendulums and cogs to disperse fragrance through a room.

  • 08 /23

    Jeongwon Ji's Tactile Sound speaker's volume control has a surface that transitions from smooth to rough. The coarser the texture, the louder the music.

  • 09 /23

    Lina Patsiou's Eclipse lamp is inspired by sun beams.

  • 10 /23

    Map's AKQA Seeker is a compass-like object that points to a destination programmed into the device.

  • 11 /23

    Marjan van Aubel's Dichoric Light changes from a mirror to a colorful light thanks to a special film applied to the surface that reacts to light.

  • 12 /23

    The Vamp by Paul Cocksedge enables any speaker to play music via Bluetooth streaming.

  • 13 /23

    Poetic Lab's Silo Clock is both a kinetic sculpture and a wall clock.

  • 14 /23

    Rive Roshan's Circadian Tapestry is essentially a motorized artwork that constantly rotates to reveal different color combinations.

  • 15 /23

    ROLI's Seaboard RISE is a synth with a squishy keyboard--an act of UI genius.

  • 16 /23

    Studio Drift's Dandelight is made from a real dandelion with LED bulbs individually glued to each seed.

  • 17 /23

    Studio Furthermore's Lacuna lamp features a low-tech mouth-blown glass shade and LED light source.

  • 18 /23

    Studio Tord Boontje's Hairy Creature Speakers turn standard-issue speakers into a furry sculptures.

  • 19 /23

    Thorunn Arnadottir's Shapes of Sounds combines soundboards from discarded toys and puts them into abstract cases of his own design.

  • 20 /23

    Wonseok Jung's The Time Belt shows the passage of time as a linear progression.

  • 21 /23

    Yamaha's YEV-104 electric violin contrasts digitally produced sound with a natural wood body.

  • 22 /23

    Yoav Reches and Nan Zhao's Flex Shade is made from a single flexible circuit board.

  • 23 /23

    Yuri Suzuki's Quest-ce que cest uses the shape of a '70s boombox, but reduces the components down to the bare minimum to achieve a wireframe look.

Almost all consumer electronics are mass-produced, which means that they're often designed specifically to ease the manufacturing and distribution process. Beautiful, thoughtful electronics do exist but they're typically the exception, not the rule. Electro Craft, a show at this week's London Design Festival, invited designers to give our gadgets the same bespoke treatment as a handcrafted heirloom.

In an essay accompanying the show, design curator Gareth Williams points out that there's a good reason so much tech is shaped by qualities like economical fabrication, repetition, and predictability. "The complexity and scale of manufacturing electric appliances develops products from marketing briefs, rather than from a design sensibility," Williams writes. "As a manufacturer, how can it be otherwise, if your product needs to penetrate global markets in order to succeed?"

For the show, Williams invited designers to buck that assumption. The designers created objects that have the attention to detail, tactile sensibilities, conceptual cleverness, and materiality of craft. In all, 27 designers contributed work for the installation, ranging from speakers and lamps to fans, candle holders, and musical instruments.

For example, designer Jeongwon Ji's Tactile Sound speaker features a haptic control to raise and lower volume. The touchpad is coated in a sandpaper-like gradient that transitions from smooth to rough; the heavier the grit, the louder the speaker. Meanwhile, Ariane Prin's metal clocks are cast in individual molds and oxidized to yield a warm orange hue; no two are alike. Bilge Nur Saltik's stone tabletop accessories artfully hide Bluetooth speakers. While not every household object needs to be a stealth speaker, we appreciate the show's conceit: All electronics should be beautiful.

Flip through the slideshow to see the other pieces in the show.

[All Photos: courtesy Electro Craft]

Slideshow Credits: 07 / Photo: Lauren Davies; 12 / Photo: © Mark Cocksedge;

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