Product design evolved out of the conceptualization of household items, following ergonomics and ease in functioning. It tries to introduce path-breaking solutions that will become revolutionary in our daily lives. Product designers are innovators with creative minds who spend their time analysing human needs so as to be able to discover unique possibilities to make our lives easier. 

Over time it has also evolved as an artistic expression generating unique objects that have brought the character into our daily lives. It has become a competitive field with designers thinking out of the box to create an ideal world with numerous possibilities. 

Past, Present and Future: Product Design Sheet1
A unique twist to the household Measuring Tape _© OTOTO products / amazon.com

The Evolution of Product Design

Even though product designing is considered to be a relatively new discipline many are not aware of its deep root in history. With the onset of mass production during the industrial revolution, product designing came to light as a new field guided by great innovators of that time. From the Spinning Jenny by James Hargreaves to the Pottery factory by Josiah Wedgwood, these were the beginning of product designing as we know it. 

During that time there wasn’t much importance given to user-centric design as of now. With its newness, discoveries were made to simplify labour, the spinning jenny was groundbreaking in the weaving industry marking the start of mass production in clothing.

Past, Present and Future: Product Design Sheet2
A potter at work at the Wedgwood factory in Britain _© Wedgwood / discoverbritainmag.com

The mechanization in mass production factories created dreadful conditions causing unrest among the workers. The great reform movement was introduced to bring an improvement to the conditions that people worked under. To improve these stifling conditions at the workplace Thomas Edison introduced Lightbulbs and microphones which changed our lives forever. Other discoveries include the Singer sewing machine and Thonets’ famous coffee house chairs.

Past, Present and Future: Product Design Sheet3
These chairs are still part of the coffee house ambience to date _© europeana.eu

After this initial phase of industrial design, the designs shifted to a more artistic approach. Art movements like Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Modernism, and Art Deco created many unique designs and some that were more artistic and less user friendly. Art Nouveau brought elegant designs that drew inspiration from Japanese art while Modernism tried to embody sleek designs that were simple as well as classy and Art Nouveau focused on ornamentation as a key feature.

The Current waves of Product Design

The introduction of Neo modern designs lead to aesthetic appeal taking a higher value. After centuries of rigid functionality taking priority, designers started applying creative freedom in their designs. The modernist design ideology values creative artistic expression and this led to celebrity designers taking a leap in their careers with extravagant designs. Art and design started merging, showing us that art itself is the work of a designer. Products brought the character into our abodes giving us values depending on the items we owned. This ideal flourished in the materialistic present with people all wanting the new and trendy. However, this created a horrific consumer culture due to the impermanence of products and the urge to replace them with newer designs.

Hence sustainability came into the picture to reduce this materialistic ideology and user-centric design was once again given prime importance. Designers now had to preach sustainability through their designs, they needed to inculcate conscious consumerism into their users. This posed a new challenge to product designers in recent times. Presently, sustainable user-centric designs have become the main domain, while aesthetic appeal has taken the back seat.

Past, Present and Future: Product Design Sheet4
Sustainable cork that is a by-product of the wine industry is used to create stylish home furnishings and plant pots _© Melanie Riccardi

Product Design of the Future

No one knows about what the future can entail for product design however with new technologies like virtual reality one can guess that the possibilities are endless. Some say that augmented reality will take power over software and applications. Artificial intelligence could also be the main resource in product design with this technology adapting to aid with tasks.

With the advancement in technology, the future of Product design could very well be far from reality. Designers have advanced technology which can help them propel their ideas to new levels. One such example is the 3D printer which was introduced decades ago but has in recent times become widely accessible to the common man. 

New prototypes of this wonderful innovation can generate 3d models of designs that are visualized by the designer in the bare minimum time. This allows designers to test out their products with maximum ease and in the shortest time possible. However, with such advancements to aid them this field has become a challenging and competitive field that also has an equal probability of success and failure.

References

  • Schroeder, Amy. “What Is the Future of Product Design in the 2020s?” Www.abstract.com, 3 Jan. 2020, www.abstract.com/blog/product-design-in-2020s. Accessed 6 August 2021.
  • Designers. “Time Travel through the Evolution of Product Design.” Medium, 1 Feb. 2021, medium.com/detaux/time-travel-through-the-evolution-of-product-design-957221705313. Accessed 6 August 2021.
  • Melanie Riccardi. The Cork Pots [Photograph]. 
  • Coffee house chair [Photograph]. europeana.eu
  • Wedgwood. A potter at work at the Wedgwood factory [Photograph]. discoverbritainmag.com
  • OTOTO Products. Measuring Tape [Photograph]. Amazon.com
Author

Mary is a final year B.Arch. student eager to find her place in the multiverse that is architecture. She believes that words have a hidden ability to inspire, providing an in-depth perception. Deeply passionate about preserving the natural world and its heritage, she also finds solace in penning down her thoughts, travelling and enjoys being cooped up with a good book.

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