Cool Concepts, Poor Products
We’re taking a slightly different approach this week with the blog. Rather than review products that we would recommend to the public, we are going to take a look at some items that are interesting concepts but cannot effectively be translated into a realistic product. There is a line separating cool concepts from good product design, and we’ll explore just that.
BOULON BLANC: TRANSFORMATION TABLE
If you’re a regular on Kickstarter you may have come across this clever table by Boulon Blanc. Their team has taken the traditional convertible table with folding legs and re-engineered it for functionality and aesthetics. Transforming this piece from coffee table to dining table requires only a simple lift and twist. The ‘boomerang’ leg design is incredibly creative as it allows the table to sit comfortable on three feet when used for dining and on six feet when used for your living room. By designing a new leg system, they have also managed to give this product its much needed visual face-lift.
Our critique of this table is that while it is a clever design, the retail cost of $824 (Kickstarter.com) is far too high for the segment of the market this kind of product would most likely be targeting. The other main issue we have is the low likelihood that people will want to constantly clear off their table to convert from eating to lounging. Unfortunately for this product, people do not have rigid activity schedules – they often bounce around from one activity to another which would ironically make the key feature of this table a significant inconvenience.
TAKASHI SATO: STECKLING
This coat stand by designer Takashi Sato creates an interactive experience for its user which can be something that you want to strive for when designing new products. The potential problem we see comes from the crux of this design – while it may be fun at first to change you hook into a hanger, this in fact becomes a hindrance to efficiently placing or removing items of clothing. People also expect to receive more than three hooks when buying a full-sized coat stand (as most have 9-12), which is quite a significant oversight in this product’s design. What makes this design additionally problematic is that you must also sacrifice one of those hooks if you want to use one of the hangers, which further limits the actual usefulness of this coat rack.
Aesthetically speaking this coat tree is very contemporary with its unadorned wooden parts and sleek black metal hooks. It looks very sophisticated and is sure to catch the eyes of your guests when you have them over. Unfortunately that may be all this product does, if your family or company is more than two people.
BERNHARD | BURKARD: CURT DECK CHAIR
Next on our list is this very elegant wall-leaning hammock designed by Bernhard | Burkard. The minimalist frame and single scoop of fabric make this product feel refined and uncluttered. Using few structural parts does come at a cost however, which is exactly where the functionality of this piece “hits a wall”. With no means to anchor the top to a wall, this hammock is prone to sliding forwards at the bottom, along with the person. According to Bernhard | Burkard, they have taken the precaution of adding an anti-slip coating, but we are still highly skeptical of its holding power. Since the design requires a wall to function, the practical spaces this can be used within are in fact minimized, thus limiting the intended “portability”. The resulting design may make the user apprehensive about using it, let alone purchasing it. That being said, it is a neat concept, however in our view not a realistic consumer product design.
THINKK STUDIO: CONST LAMP
Lighting design can be a challenging space to venture into. Unlike some other more basic items like tables or shelves, a light has to actively improve the user’s environment or else it’s just a frustratingly insufficient product. The ‘CONST lamp’ by THINKK Studio tries to re-imagine how one might direct the projection of light in the desired direction. This is achieved through physical manipulation of the lamp base itself, rather than having and articulating head, as is more common place. The rich marble, wood and coloured metal materials all work very nicely with one another aesthetically – but we expect the final price tag to be very high considering that most of the major parts are non-collapsible, though the source could not be located.
Now that we’ve established we enjoy the visual qualities of this lamp, we should note that the functionality is entirely dependent on the three available positions of the octagonal wooden base. With this base the direction of the light is significantly limited and therefore limits its practicality as a desk lamp. We would also like to note the pencil storage also feels like an afterthought, especially if the unit needs to be moved or adjusted.
It’s always great to see designers trying new methods and thinking outside of the box, but there are reasons products have consistent characteristics from decade to decade. Articulating lamp heads are an example of just that kind of feature.
EMMANUEL GONZALEZ: ROPE SIDEBOARD
Chilean designer Emmanuel Gonzalez Guzman drew upon an activity not often associated with furniture design: Boxing. This sideboard uses bungie ropes on its front like those from a boxing ring to create a semi-concealing screen over the contained objects and also to create easy visibility for the owner. We absolutely love the incorporation of non-traditional materials and the interesting design elements it adds the entire piece – the clean linear ropes and rectilinear body work wonderfully together.
This issue with this product arises when considering what kind of items you plan to keep in here. The sizes, durability and material may completely change the effectiveness of the bungie cord. If you use it for flat objects like books or records like the photo shows, you should be able to slip them through the expanded opening with relative ease. On the other hand, if you want to store larger objects that require two hands for lifting, you will be hard pressed to separate the different ropes with just your feet on your own. We love the creativity used in the conception of this piece, but it still feels like an early prototype; requiring more testing in the UI department.