Redesigning Consumer Electronics With Old-School Craftsmanship

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]