Three Ways Design Masks Utility


Design and engineering dominate almost every moment of our daily lives. Everything from the contour of our toothbrush when we brush our teeth in the morning to the alarm clock we set before bed at night is the result of a marriage between functional utility and aesthetic design. While we tend to value the appearance of some things like our clothing and our furniture much more importantly than others, there is still someone out there toiling over the appearance of your most mundane possessions, believe it or not. As we get craftier about our engineering and new techniques become available in manufacturing and construction, there are increasing opportunities to incorporate visual value into our daily objects. From desk fans to water bottles, here are three areas in which we can see design coming to the forefront of people’s attention.

Ever Smaller Micro Housing

Where the booming economic prosperity of the 1990’s enticed Americans into building larger and larger homes, the expansion of McMansion mania seems to finally be simmering down. People are painfully conscious of the perils of loose credit following the 2008 financial crisis, and that consciousness is beginning to manifest in a trend toward what is known as “micro housing.” These micro houses are built with special attention directed not only to conserving funds and space, but also to environmental sustainability. Architects building these homes recognize the very real impact of each person’s lifestyle on the global ecosystem, and the need for people to be more conscious of the way in which they are living. The trend of micro housing is not only popping up are the United States, but around the globe as well. In this article from Curbed, you can see students in Sweden who have thoughtfully constructed an entirely solar paneled micro house. The home is only 625 square feet but with its organic shape and locally sourced wood paneling, this utilitarian triumph, is a design masterpiece as well. Those Scandinavians always nail it.

Functional Décor and the Humble Desk Fan

We tend to pay attention to our home décor in terms of couches, paint color, lighting fixtures and other traditional forms of decorating the house. While those factors are undoubtedly important, it might be time to start focusing on the neglected areas of the home like dishwashers, toilets, and desk fans. Certainly appliances go in and out of style through variations in finishing choices, the models essentially have remained the same for the past several decades. Moving into the future, these elements of the home have the potential to be completely redesigned for a new generation.

One might not think desk fans could be very attractive. In fact, one might not think about desk fans very much at all. But companies like Lumens have swept in to elevate the status of the humble desk fan from eyesore to eye-catching. Lumens offer a collection of attractive desk fans that you will actually enjoy putting on display at home or in the office, thanks to a number of top design firms that supply their merchandise. Taking cues from either classically minded aesthetics or forward thinking innovation, these fans are enviable décor in and of themselves.

Flatware and the New Drinking Glass

To much hubbub and fanfare, the hotly anticipated Vessyl has been the topic of conversation for the past several months. The “smart cup” promises to usher in a new generation of products stemming from the idea of being the “iPhone” of whatever object that needs technological upgrading.  Developed by Mark One, Vessyl recently acquired three million in a new seed round of funding from venture capital firms Felicis and Horizons. As the money continues to pour in, one might be wondering, what exactly is so exceptional about pouring something out of a Vessyl? The concept behind the digitally enabled cup is less about making things easy to consume and more about tracking the things you are consuming throughout the day. The cup communicates with a smartphone application using LED Bluetooth technology, transmitting data such as the contents of the container and how it plays into your total suggested intake based on your biometrics. While the cup won’t be available for purchase to the public until 2015, the company is still getting a lot of attention for what is being hailed as a revolutionary extension of the digital revolution, one in which we look beyond the acceleration of technology in our laptops and smartphones, but to basic, everyday objects as well. The product is expected to carry a retail price tag of around $199 when it comes out.

While these types of design developments are exciting, there are still plenty of areas in which the world could benefit from massive redesigns. As new manufacturing technologies like 3D printing become more viable, attention to design on a grander scale is an increasingly tangible reality.


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