The appliance industry is becoming increasingly competitive, with vendors tasked with ensuring their products not only solve important problems, but feature the most current design trends in the market. Beyond the predictable visual enhancements of satin finishes, black steel, and minimalist styling, the following three consumer desires are driving the compact, on-demand, and connected appliance designs we see today.
Continued growth of the percentage of single-person households- coupled with the fact that living environments in general continue to decrease in size (tiny homes, anyone?)- has led to a new class of appliances catering to the capacity, size, and features of a single occupant. Smaller capacity washing machines, refrigerators, water purifiers, and other small appliance segments are capitalizing on this trend by introducing solo-use, on-demand, and smaller point-of-use sized appliances (e.g. Keurig, Nespresso Lattissima One) that better match solo consumer needs in the home.
Growth of population and disposable income per capita in Asia, notably China, has drawn direct attention from many manufacturers, with specific regional product releases from major brands now keeping pace with design and technology as fast (or faster) than the rest of the developed world. The typically smaller size of Chinese kitchens, more frequent use of high heat cooking, stronger generation of cooking oil vapors, and the need for effective home water purification are generating fundamentally different product forms, approaches, and feature combinations in the home to better serve regional needs.
In 2018, there was a broad commitment to newer slanted kitchen extractor hood forms (e.g. Casarte CXW by Haier), and we believe 2019 will show continued regional innovation in water purification products. Global brands are already planning to launch long life UVC LED based purifiers into the region next year which will dramatically change cost of ownership models across the water purifier segment.
Moving beyond the traditional settings of low-medium-high, precision control is feeding consumers' desire for tight oversight of their activities in the home. With the rise of Sous Vide, water purifiers with 1°C temperature control, and temperature perfected baby formula dispensers (e.g. Aqua Touch Desktop by Honeywell), consumers are embracing the feeling of high precision control at their fingertips as improved control and comfort in their daily lives. With intelligent controls now connecting outward into mobile apps and smart home connectivity as well, design feature growth is focusing on new component additions with trackable and responsive performance and data.
While these trends continue to take hold in the market, appliance designers should remember to stay focused on users’ needs, as some attempts at digital integration have led to harsh reviews for unnecessary features. Remember, innovation is key, features are not. The goal should always be to solve for pain points customers didn’t even realize they had, and keeping that in mind will ensure smarter, functional designs.