Rethinking the Design of Kitchen Appliances

by Idris Mootee

Rethinking the Design of Kitchen AppliancesMy kitchen is overcrowded. There is no end in sight as we continue to invent new kitchen gadgets.

I have always wondered why many small kitchen appliances are so poorly designed both in form and function. Cooking is an art form and the appliances should reflect that. I’ve spent an hour at John Lewis’ basement looking at their kitchen appliances. John Lewis’ has better designs than what we see at Sears or Macy’s. I guess B&O should start designing toasters.

Last year Electrolux Icon appliances and Interior Design Magazine held a competition with winner Marcello Zuffo’s futuristic kitchen that featured movable components that can be reconfigured to adapt to the task at hand and incorporated a contemporary sculptural component contrary to a typically rectangular floor plan.

Designing a kitchen is an art, combining form and function while reflecting on the personality of the owner or designer. The kitchen has now become a place which is as much for cooking as it is a place to entertain guests while preparing a meal. Designer kitchens have been sprouting for decades now. More and more homeowners have been renovating and remodeling their homes to include designer kitchens. In kitchen designs and even appliances, Europe is at the forefront of kitchen design and designer kitchen innovation. In the US, unless you’re prepared to throw a lot of money at the problem, you’re pretty much stuck with some mass-market solution. And then the question is do you want stainless steel? It that going to go out of fashion soon or it is here to stay? Didn’t everyone think black, and then white, were going to be classics?

Anyhow, most of the stuff we see out there in the US is pretty poorly designed. Europe is a little better. But they need to think “system” instead of individual products. James Dyson now wants to compactify our kitchens. And hopefully beautify them in the process. In a US patent application filing, Dyson and his colleagues Peter Gammack and David Campbell describe a smart way to save space on overcrowded kitchen worktops by radically changing the design of the gadgets that typically clutter them.

Cuboid ApplianceYes, think “system.” The team says the trouble with today’s kettles, toasters, juicers, food mixers and coffee grinders is that each type of gadget tends to have a different space-hogging design. Kettles tend to be jug or dome-shaped, with a protruding handle and flex on one side, and a spout on the other. Toasters are generally box shaped, with the timing and toast ejection mechanisms protruding from one end. That means users must leave a large “footprint” around each appliance so that their handles and controls can be reached easily. That’s a very smart way to start. Kudos to the Dyson team!

In their patent filing, the idea is simple: make all free-standing gadgets like kettles, toasters, juicers and food mixers in the shape of tall cuboids that can easily be pushed together on a worktop, with no wasted space between them. As the controls could be recessed in their flat lids or on the front panels, no space-wasting side access is required. The patent also suggests connecting the appliances together – presumably using a common power supply. Why haven’t people thought of that before?

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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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