In Praise of Designers
— Albert Einstein
We’ve all heard – and perhaps even written – that new, innovative products are the propellant that fuels every industry. That’s certainly true, but perhaps not quite as accurate as it could be.
It’s really the designers of those products that are the driving force, isn’t it? These are the individuals who keep abreast of new materials, relevant trends, competitive products and gaps in their customer’s product lines.
That’s just a bit of the background work – a gathering of foundational material – before the work of product creation actually begins.
Assuming that the vast majority of product designers have a healthy level of ethics, they want to create something new, something unique, something pleasing to the eye and appealing to the shoppers (that word, by the way, is synonymous with “women”).
Product designers also need an understanding of what has come before, at times, far before. If you’re getting the idea that designing products is a complex, multi-layered, never-ending task, you’re correct.
In this issue of Hearth & Home you’ll find three articles, in particular, that deal directly with design. The first is “The Dynamics of Design,” a look at how contemporary design is growing quite rapidly now among traditional hearth products. The advent of linear gas fireplaces a few years ago was the catalyst for that growth.
Now it’s the task of those working in hearth product design to take the industry beyond linear into the next generation of contemporary design. How they do that will determine, to a great extent, the level of growth over the coming years.
The second article is headlined, “We Won’t Compromise”. It concerns Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and its strict philosophy of placing innovation, high quality and performance above all else – even above the resulting price point. That’s right, Kalamazoo doesn’t care how high their prices may go, as long as they continue to ensure that the necessary innovation exists to provide value for their customers.
Leading the design charge at Kalamazoo is Russ Faulk, vice president of Product Design & Marketing. “I try to start with a problem-solving approach,” he says, “and look at ways to make things better.”
Solving problems and making things better – that sounds like a simple, and perfectly accurate, definition of the highest level of product design.
Last, not least, is “The Creators”. In it you’ll find snapshots of six designers, some who deal with multiple clients, others who work for just one. We asked them a series of questions about their work and philosophy.
Here’s what furniture designer Carsten Astheimer has to say: “Perfection is attained not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
We’ll Never Reach 2008 Levels Again
We – and we assume you – have heard that statement over and over again through the past five years. It means, in particular, that we’ll never see a housing market with as much strength – and irresponsibility – as we did leading up to the downturn.
Well, the housing market is far from where it was at that point, but already one New England hearth retailer posted the following comment on a survey we sent out.
“I never thought we would match our ’08 numbers, but we are 25 percent over 2008 for (the first quarter). It’s going to be a great year for hearth!”
We would add, and a great year for patio furnishings and barbecue sales.