"They don't make them like they used to..." By Kyle Buzzard March 20, 2013
We’ve all heard our grandparents or parents say this. I’ve even caught myself saying this. And it’s almost always being used in a moment of frustration. Whether its during a shopping trip while disappointed at the selection or when a product breaks after lasting half the time one thinks it should, people recognize that in general the quality of products has fallen over the years. It’s not to say that there aren’t quality products any more, there are. And it’s not to say that low quality products have never existed, they have. So what happened?
Before the age of credit cards and wild consumer spending, products were considered investments and brand loyalty was a major factor in purchasing decisions. People would save up for a long time to purchase new products. This attitude meant that companies didn’t necessarily have to value engineer everything since people were willing to pay a little more for what they were getting and people expected them to last a long time. Also, because the market was smaller and there was less global competition, brands could take more time to develop and test their products to assure that they wouldn’t break; they would do anything to keep from losing their customer’s confidence and loyalty. Designers were creating an aesthetic that needed to be somewhat trendy, but also needed to be fairly timeless to match the long life cycle of the products. Purchasing decisions were fewer and farther between, but the purchase itself has always been a very special event.
Making a purchase is a rush. It is well studied how it affects our body’s chemistry and how it can have an impact on our state of mind. Enter the credit card. No longer did people have to wait and save up for products. They could have them now. This notion of instant gratification meant that people could have that amazing purchasing feeling almost whenever they wanted. But products were expensive and at some point it just wasn’t possible to get everything on the wish list. Emotion is a powerful drug. Enter global competition. Undercutting prices meant that people could buy the type of product they wanted and be able to keep on spending, to keep on having the rush. Mix in the powerful notion of yearly models brought to the forefront by the automotive industry and people’s purchasing decisions began to shift from quality and brand loyalty towards price and exciting new design. The powerful recipe of quality and design began to be torn apart.
For decades companies seemed content to pump out value engineered garbage to the public, competing only for the lowest price tag, in order to satisfy the nation’s insatiable need to consume. And for decades the same people saying “they don’t make them like they used to” would walk past the expensive high quality item and swipe plastic for two cheap ones. The only way to make things cheap enough to win was to move manufacturing overseas and thus US factories lost business and laid more people off. This in turn reduced the middle class spending power and ultimately drove the need for products to be even cheaper. As long as this fundamental view toward product consumption stayed the same the cycle would continue.
Another factor in this argument is that more and more products began integrating technology which has been accelerating at such a rapid rate that, like it or not, the product that housed it was going to be obsolete almost immediately. What reason is there to use high quality materials, create a timeless design and test it for one million cycles if it’s destined for the landfill before next Christmas? This rapid acceleration of technology also meant that the development process had to adapt to meet these new deadlines and schedules, cutting out many of the checks and balances that might have previously delayed or cancelled entire projects. Just getting it out there as fast as possible became the mantra for many companies to stay competitive in tech and ultimately led to compromise in the design and engineering of the products.
Sadly, it’s taken a lot of hard times and heartache to expose the roots of the problems, but the attitude does seem to be shifting. Companies like GM and Ford are beginning to make high quality, well designed products at competitive prices. Apple’s dedication to design and quality is probably the best example of the return of brand loyalty, and began toppling bargain brands like Dell and HP where those attributes for a long time took a back seat. Thanks to resources like internet reviews and blogs, people are better informed and consumer expectations have risen significantly. People are again becoming impressed by quality and timeless design and appear to be willing to spend more for it. It’s now actually becoming more cool to have one extremely nice possession than 30 of whatever. Consumer behavior is finally beginning to shift and with these new expectations and demands, companies will have to innovate and meet these new standards if they are going to be competitive in the future. They’ll have to make them like they use to.
"CES 2013 Observations" By Kyle Buzzard January 14, 2013
2D APPROACH TO 3D
Complex form and IMD used to be king, but the new trend features a bold graphical statement on a simple product. 3D Textures, bold patterns, oversized vent or perforation, etc. are used to this effect.
COMPETITION LIES IN FRINGE FEATURES AND STYLE
As performance expectations and specs are becoming more flat, the focus is less on the product itself and rather how it helps enable self expression and personal style.
Example: Griffin mid-century vs. Panasonic stark modern vs. Marley eclectic
Colors that used to just be for accessories are finding their way into product SKUs. This is reflective of a bigger trend in lifestyle and fashion influences on the world of CE. Example: Pentax Q10 has 100 color options available.
Coca-Cola Party Dispenser Designer: Kyle Buzzard
This was a 2 week project at Cincinnati to investigate a popular brand and invent a new product for them. The two liter has long been a best seller for parties and gatherings but they are difficult to pour, especially for children. Coca-Cola could enter a new market with a product like the dispenser which makes it easier for everyone to enjoy their products and expands their brand recognition and reputation for refreshment and fun. Completed: 2007
Counterclockwise Designer: Kyle Buzzard
Counterclockwise is a clock where the dials rotate backwards to bring the correct time into the frames. This was a one week assignment at Cincinnati to simply to make something using the laser cutter. The clock is made from laser cut sheets of mdf and thick coated paper. The mechanism is mounted backwards, allowing the playful and ironic counterclockwise movement. Completed: 2008
Tea Steeper Designer: Kyle Buzzard
This is one of those ideas you have right before you fall asleep.. What if you used graduated sized holes to control how long it takes water to fall through a vessel? This mechanism could allow for tea to be steeped the perfect amount of time depending on the type of tea or desired strength. This represents a few hours of ideation, cad and renders to visualize a solution. Completed: 2009
Inspiration- Texture and Pattern February 2013