Apple laid down the gauntlet, now all manufacturers must respond

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    Jason Ng is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Honeywell

    Few people in the twentieth century did as much as the late, great Steve Jobs – and his hugely talented chief designer Sir Jonathan Ives – to champion the importance of form and function in consumer technology. It’s fair to say that Steve and Jonathan were both a blessing and a curse on manufacturers everywhere. A blessing, because today, consumers see technology as a fashion accessory in its own right. They are willing to pay a premium for form and function; for devices that work, but also look fantastic.

    When you jump on a bus or tube to leave the office, take a look around and you’ll notice that headphones are no longer just a device for listening to music. Today, they are fashion statements, labels, brands – Beats by Dr Dre, Marshall, SkullCandy – available in different colours, complete with funky designs on the earphones. Remember when headphones were just a way of listening to music?

    How the world has changed.

    Steve and Jonathan were also a curse though, because the success of Apple’s products – iPod, iPhone, iPad – has completely and irreversibly reshaped consumer’s expectations of mainstream personal technology. The key word there is ‘expectation’. As manufacturers, there’s no longer any place to hide. There are no more excuses left; consumers expect form and function from their technology. Thanks very much Steve…

    So, what about wiring accessories? The sockets and switches that adorn pretty much every room in the world. As much as manufacturers might wish otherwise, the world of wiring accessories is not exempt from ‘form and function’. Far from it, in fact.

    It’s impossible to predict the future, but one thing we can say with a degree of certainty is if consumers aren’t willing to buy a pair of headphones, MP3 player, a PC, tablet, or smartphone that just works anymore, it’s only a matter of time before they won’t buy a switch or a socket for the same reason.

    Ask any hotelier and they’ll tell you that a room’s look and feel is a sum of its parts, no matter how small.

    A sleek, sexy, minimalist lobby; a dark, imposing, traditional, wood-panelled dining room; a funky, kitsch, eclectic, colourful guest room, hoteliers and their interior designers work extremely hard to ensure that every last inch of a space all contributes towards the overall impact. It’s about ensuring every single building block you use – furniture, paint, skirting boards, lights, wallpaper, you name it – plays a part in creating the room – and hotel’s – individual brand.

    Wiring accessories – switches, sockets – have been the anomaly for too long. Worst case, they are an eyesore that detracts from the overall impact of a space. Best case, they are designed to blend in and look as inoffensive as possible. It’s a cosy compromise that wiring accessories manufacturers have relied on for too long, and it’s a gravy train that’s chugging towards the end of the line.

    As consumers increasingly come to expect form and function from their technology, wiring accessories manufacturers like ourselves must adapt or die. We have to rise to the challenge of creating something that is beautiful, stylish and a ‘feature’ in its own right. We have to build a product that can lift a space and contribute positively to a hotel’s aesthetic impact.

    Targeted at hoteliers who want more from their wiring accessories, we recently launched the MK Elements Collection; a revolutionary range of stylish, design-led wiring devices, inspired by materials including wood, leather and stone. It’s our big, bold step into this brave new world.

    Daniel Fountain / 07.08.2014

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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