Last Thursday, Conran Singh hosted a debate on the use of digital technology by luxury brands.
Tag Archives: Conran Singh
Luxury designers have been slow to embrace digital technology, and those at the very top have been slowest of all. Super-luxe brands revel in the mechanical and the material, in burnished dials and ostrich leather sleeves. Where does digital technology fit in? Continue reading
As promised, we’re following up Daljit’s Wired article on Monday with the first of Conran Singh’s thought pieces on how luxury and digital mix.
Today’s question: can money buy a better interface?
Designing by committee
Received wisdom dictates that, in the digital design world, iteration is king. Tech needs to be built, tested, torn apart, and built again, and it it this process of iteration that makes good interfaces.
The same holds true for most design, of course – except that tech naturally lends itself to crowdsourcing. When Facebook wanted to translate its interface into every language, it used a crowdsourced development process: users could submit translations for the 300,000 words which comprise the Facebook interface. These submissions were voted on, and translation was done by consensus, in the blink of an eye and at negligible expense.
Much more than other companies, software makers design by committee: user feedback is collected, collated, and used to improve the product. It’s tricky to do the same with a toaster.
This is a blessing and a curse. A software company knows better than any other what its customers want – or at least, what they think they want. As Henry Ford probably didn’t once say, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. In other words, crowdsourcing may actually limit the possibilities of software design, pushing designers to refine the old, rather than to invent the new.
Most areas of design have a luxury end: Bentley cars, Bang & Olufsen speakers and Hublot watches. These manufacturers design to the highest standards, making products that are not just sold on their name, or the expense of their materials, but also the beauty and refinement of their design.
Luxury design takes time, money and expertise, and the iterative R&D that typifies designing for the mass market doesn’t take place. Perhaps because of this, such manufacturers design groundbreaking things. Why doesn’t the same apply to digital design?
For digital, too, there is room for a high end – and, as computers become embedded into just about everything, doing digital well becomes an imperative for luxury brands.
There are two roads to a great interface. One is the mass market: designs honed by the collaborative will of thousands or millions of users. The second is less travelled, but no less valuable: deep investment of time, money and expertise to create truly sublime digital experiences.
The luxury sector treads carefully when it comes to technology. Luxury designers focus on materials – brushed aluminium and leather panels – and as such digital elements, inherently material-free, are seldom included.
Is this a missed opportunity? Can luxury products be infused with digital technology, to make them all the richer? Daljit Singh thinks so.
Sam and Stephen, Conran Singh‘s resident shutterbugs, recommended Edward Burtynsky’s acclaimed ‘OIL’ show at The Photographers’ Gallery for this week’s Friday Tip. The show explores our relationship with the black gold on which we rely, and the landscapes the oil industry leaves behind.
One of Edward Burtynsky’s breathtaking oil landscapes
It closes on 1st July, so this is very much your last chance.
If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you could also check out The Conran Shop’s summer sale…
Happy weekend everyone!
Here’s a scenario for you. You spend all week looking longingly out of the window at the scorching sunshine, trying on Hawaiian shirts, and listening to the B-52′s, the taste of the grill on your lips…only for a rainy weekend to ruin your BBQ plans.
We live in a country where, sadly, contingency planning for anything we do outdoors is quite important. So we thought we’d help you out.
Here’s Sam, wordsmith for Conran Singh and former New Yorker, on the best places to get a cheap burger in London, when you can’t use your own grill.
Last year saw the launch of our digital agency Conran Singh.
Headed up by its eponymous director Daljit Singh, a luminary in the field of interaction design, they have already completed exiting new projects for Your Square Mile and luxury mobile phone brand Vertu.
But what’s he all about? And what’s the future for digital? Last week the team over at Creative Social decided to find out a bit more about him…
CS: How did you get to where you are today?
Daljit: I studied Graphic Design at Nottingham Trent University. After graduating in 1991, I went to work for IBM as an Interaction Designer. Two years into the IBM job I decided that actually the next thing to do would be to set up my own business, and that was when Digit was born. From its inception, Digit grew to about twenty people in the first five years. We were in Soho to start with, and then after Soho we moved into East London and were one of the first companies in Hoxton Square. In 2005 we sold and became part of WPP, so in total I ran Digit for about fifteen years. I left in March 2010 and thats when I started Conran Singh.
CS: Why was Conran Singh created?
Daljit: The Conran Group is run by Terence Conran, they’ve been around for almost two decades and the businesses include the Conran Shops and the Conran restaurants, of which there are about thirty around the world. There is also a publishing arm to the business, called Conran Octopus, and then there are the actual design studios which are based just behind the design museum. Within those businesses there are Conran and Partners, which is an architecture and interior design business with about sixty people in the practice doing jobs all around the world. There’s Conran Studio which is product design and branding. There is also Conran and Company, which is involved with product developing and licensing. The one thing which they have never had was a digital division. I started speaking to them and they asked if I would be interested, and here I am a year on. It seemed like the right thing to do and quite an opportunity, so I guess that’s the straightforward reason for it being born.
CS: What work have you been involved with that you are most proud of?
Daljit: Throughout my career there have been lots of things. I suppose some of the highlights have been in the Digit years. The stuff that I have always been very passionate about is R&D. I think Digit was one of the very first companies to really invest in doing research and development. We developed lots of our own projects, non-commercially, which ranged from looking deeply at interactive design and seeing what you can do with interaction on screen, and then physical interaction, which lead to some really interesting commercial projects. We did the redesign of the Habitat site many years ago which at the time was very groundbreaking. In more recent times, some of the physically interactive work that we did for Motorola has been really interesting. There’s also a project for the National Gallery which we did in collaboration with The Partners, it won a Black Pencil at the D&AD awards, I am very proud of that.
I think now, being with Conran, I am really looking forward to applying a kind of design sensibility back into what interactivity really means. There are a number of very interesting things we are doing at the moment, none of which I can talk about. Its fascinating because it is maneuvering away from straightforward marketing and advertising, into the realm of actual design and solving problems, and that is very exciting in terms of what the future holds. More importantly, I think our clients are very interested in that kind of attitude, they need it for their business.
CS: What major changes, in your opinion, can we expect to see in the Digital Communications industry in the next ten years?
Daljit: That’s a big question. I think the multi-platform world will become less multi-platform. We will be doing much more than we already are on the move, as opposed to being tethered somewhere. I think there will be a significant change in our notion of entertainment and the way that we view it. Look at television and you can see this is already happening. Up until now it has always been in the corner of your living room, this is fundamentally changing. I think our engagement with information will become simpler because we will get rid of all of the noise that is in the market place at the moment. I also think that strong, creative ideas will have to become more prevalent and more important to cut-through, because I think that brand and business can only survive where they have a very strong notion of what they’re trying to say and what they are trying to talk about, and actually the technology will need to become better designed. Apart from looking in a crystal ball I don’t think I can do anymore than that!
Read the full interview with Daljit here on Creative Social including the buzz words Daljit would like to erase forever and what he thinks is the biggest challenge for the advertising industry at the moment.
What is ‘Crowdfunding’? How do you define ‘a crowd’? Is ‘Crowdfunding’ the future of design or a designer’s IP nightmare? Who really decides what we buy and what something looks like? Can a ‘crowd’ really design something beautiful?
Those are just some of the questions we discussed last night at the first in our new series of events – The CONRAN Future sessions – held up in Terence’s apartment.
In this case our ‘crowd’ consisted of a variety of people from the ‘new’ and ‘old’ worlds of design – as they are sometimes broadly defined. In reality: people from digital agencies, crowdfunding platforms, ‘traditional’ design businesses, established designers, design writers and educators, corporate decision-makers, business leaders and recent graduates in design and innovation.
Nic Roope from POKE & Hulger, Alexander Grunsteidl from Method, journalist and photographer Barbara Chandler and our very own Daljit Singh were the panellists discussing this hot topic with the hugely knowledgable Nico Macdonald from Spy moderating. There were lots of interesting viewpoints and opinions…
Watch this space for video clips of the debate and more about what was discussed – if you’ve got any opinions on this topic feel free to drop us a line…
Next week: exclusive comment from Stephen Bayley on just this issue….
Massive thanks to Nico and the panellists and to Greta Corke from crowdfunding platform www.getitmade.com - who help lots of designers get their ideas made (not just a clever name…)
The new Conran app is here!
MAGPIE is just like it’s namesake – picking up and collecting lots of interesting things which, in this case, can be stored and used for inspiration – wherever, whenever – helping you to create virtual moodboards and scrapbooks.