Jared Mankelow, Senior Product Designer at Conran Studio, spent last week amongst the fridges and flatscreens at consumer electronics show IFA Berlin. He kindly offered to share his thoughts on where are homes are headed.
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South Place Hotel is the first hotel from venerable restaurant group D&D London, but – if we’ve counted correctly – the 84th restaurant and hotel design project we’ve worked on.
We’re delighted to spill just a few of the beans on our latest project: South Place Hotel.
South Place is D&D London’s first hotel. Perhaps unsurprisingly given their pedigree in restaurants, South Place will be “as much about meet and eat as sleep”, to quote General Manager Bruce Robertson. It will feature two restaurants and three bars, as well as its 80 stylish guest rooms.
This week’s Friday Tip comes from Orla, one of Conran Studio‘s brand design team.
You may have heard of Secret Cinema, the themed pop-up cinema experience which involves a lot of dressing up and just as much fun. Last December, the team behind Secret Cinema opened a pop-up restaurant along similar lines, ingeniously titled Secret Restaurant.
Are kitchens the purely functional places they once were? Jared Mankelow doesn’t think so.
Rather, as our formal rules of dining have broken down, kitchens have become social hubs, folding in the dining room and living room, too.
To that end, Conran Studio‘s Senior Product Designer has written the following piece on the evolving role of the kitchen – and what that means for kitchen design.
Bad design is an inevitability, and and in one way designers should be thankful for it: for good design to be recognised as such, we need bad design.
But, for those of us who believe well-designed things make the world a slightly better place, encountering bad design can be painful.
What’s worse is when bad designs come back to haunt us. For example: weren’t NHS spectacles bad enough the first time?
Last month, she spoke at the Interior Motives China conference in Beijing – a major gathering for the Chinese domestic car design industry.
Cutting through the petrol fumes with typical panache, Emma regaled a 350-strong audience with a story about coffee.
Bear with her…
“…un piccolo momento di piacere” – in drab English, a small moment of pleasure.
As designers, we’re interested in transforming items of necessity into such moments.
Britons, on average, spend £3 a day on takeaway coffee.
£3 a day makes a £5 billion business, and a greater household expense than the gas bill.
Until 1994, the coffee shop market was relatively immature – the baristas wore baseball caps, and served lacklustre pints of weak, sweet, American-style coffee. Did you know that the French call American coffee jus des chausetttes – literally, ‘sock juice’?
Then something changed. There was an infusion of Antipodean personality into the British (and especially the London) coffee scene. An infusion of social ease. The emphasis was no longer on the utility of a caffeine fix, but the luxury of a moment of pleasure.
Coffee shops started to say something about us: bright, confident, sexy, energetic. The market diversified – not just Italian-American, but Australian, British and Scandinavian. There was a new confidence in national personality.
With it came a natural increase in quality.
The American stalwarts took note of this shift – and tried to inject a little personality of their own.
What does this mean for the Chinese car market?
“…un piccolo momento di piacere” – a move away from necessity.
Cars are more than appliances, more than status symbols. They represent a way of living.
As the Chinese car market matures, cars will evolve from necessity to lifestyle choice.
How will China influence the rest of the world?
By infusing design with Chinese personality – with themes of economy, family values and respect.
Just as Australian social ease was an authentic fit for coffee shop culture, so these Chinese values fit plumb into the new, leaner automotive industry.
“Mesdames, messieurs…” welcome to the 82nd Geneva motor show, the circus has come to town. Conran Studio were there too to view the spectacle.
Enormous show halls are filled with automotive beasts corralled into brand paddocks, each of these stands are themselves magnificent pavilions of grand architecture. The lights, noise and static crackle and we dehydrate to a crisp on entry.
Serious men with pink feather dusters tickle the final specks of dust from their show pieces. Hired women with skinny curves stroke their tamed metal brutes.
Despite the elephant in the room, a herd of them in fact – the finite oil supply, planning of car-less mega cities, markets emerging in unpredictable ways and a general global skint-ness – the first impression was of business as usual. All the biggies – Audi, Toyota, Peugeot, BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Volvo – have voluptuous spaces for photogenic concept launches. There are plenty of both cars, ideas and determination to delight.
Colour is everything this year. The recent, subversive resurgence of matt charcoal blacks for exterior finishes have become Prada-fied, via the sweet shop: silky caramels, powdery, matt hint of strawberry, fresh pale, pearly mints. Sophisticated, modern and with a (stroppy) edge. Graphic flicks and accents are bold and executed with flair, look at the red-eye of the Audi A1.
Form. The tribal nature of car brands cause a powerful kinship for consumers, the silhouettes of these cars are a masterclass in creating emotional connection through design. The sinews, scoops and flex of these muscled creatures look particularly good when you lie on the floor; so look up next time you’re being run over. The language is still diluted for the newer brands such as India based Tata, but they’re gaining momentum and confidence and an evolved language is sure to follow.
Lighting. Developments in technology and manufacturing techniques have allowed for softer and more controllable lighting in interiors. (Remember when it was a slide plastic thing that rarely worked and god-forbid if you turned it on whist Dad was driving?). On the outside, lights are swept back, arched, looming, scowling… every brand has a different twinkle to its eye, the eyes being the door to this soul.
Interiors. The knobs and dials are interactive jewels, causing an intimate dialogue between the drivers’ eyes and hands. The new Peugeot 208 exemplifies this more direct experience, for example the teeny steering wheel and a clever composition means you see the instruments above the wheel rather than peering through. The references to a broader design world are clear to see: bespoke tailoring and expert pattern cutting, combinations of textures and fabrics and stitched seam details, precision craft of cabinetry and the intersection of materials. A crossover with other trades for design and materials is nothing new (the partnership Ferrari, Poltrona Frau and balsamic vinegar, anyone?) but making these designer cues blatant to the consumer eye is evident for many manufacturers.
One extraordinary sight was of the new Bentley EXP 9F. With wheels the height of thighs, a bullion of rock star alchemy, pleated leather tail gate and Lalique picnic set, surely this is the mark that the SUV set has finally turned the curve and will hopefully meet with steady demise?
Yet futurism is here. Subtle, transcending and important shifts start to show the way ahead. Starting with the back seat; the influence, particularly from China, is that the important people sit here. It could be that the head of the house is driven by their son or chauffeur or simply the car as a symbol of status where there’s no detail to compromise. For many generations it was a mostly wipe-clean area then came the nodding dogs and head rests. Now the focus is to be more comfortable and more interactive, brought to bear through lighting, ergonomics, layout and combinations of materials, your space personalised as you sit in the global traffic jam.
Epiphany for me? Electric cars look – for the first time – both attractive and relevant.
We’ve been working with Japan’s leading mobile phone operator NTT DOCOMO and manufacturer LG to develop an exciting Conran-branded lifestyle mobile phone, the L-04B. It’s available in Japan from this week and we’re really pleased to say that the phone has received loads of great press coverage and is busy buzzing around the techno-blogs. (see below)
The ergonomic, candy-bar shaped phone, designed by Studio Conran, is characterised by a 176-degree angle which echoes the natural contour of the human face, sitting gracefully and gently in the hand and wrapping perfectly around the face when making calls. Its subtle angle also means it sits really comfortably in your pocket.
It’s deliberately thin, measuring just 11mm and is radically different from the flip phones most often seen in Japan. We’ve added soft touch finishes and contoured keypad buttons which provide a subtle tactility. The rear surface is clean and seamless – free from any unnecessary detailing.
Japan is arguably the most technologically advanced mobile phone market in the world and the Conran phone is positioned as a lifestyle phone aimed at 20-40 year old design conscious men and women.
It’s the latest in NTT DOCOMO’s series of lifestyle mobile phone design collaborations with top designers worldwide, which in the past included Alessi designer Stefano Giovannoni, French macaroon king Pierre Herme and Japanese art director Kashiwa Sato.
Hugo Eccles the Creative and Managing Director of Studio Conran had this to say:
“This phone, with its uniquely elegant and understated form, was developed from scratch by our designers in collaboration with the NTT DOCOMO and LG technical teams. The result is a phone that has everything you need, but remains intuitively simple to use. We believe it’s exactly what design conscious Japanese consumers are looking for in a phone.”
NTT DOCOMO’s Product Department seem pleased too:
“In Conran, we’ve found a design partner and name linked to a phone that is synonymous with everything that is timeless and thoroughly contemporary in both design and function – exactly what we were trying to achieve in releasing our first candy-bar handset in two years.”
We are really pleased that in a market characterised by all-singing, all-dancing technological wizardry, the Conran phone’s design strips back the bells and whistles to create a sleek object of desire that doesn’t compromise on the functionality of those things phones were actually invented to do.
Studio Conran also designed a range of screens named after London areas and menus in a monochromatic palette named Dawn and Dusk for the pale and black faces respectively.
The phone is available in three colours chosen to appeal to Japanese consumer sensibilities: sleek gender-neutral black and red bodies with black faces through to a more feminine brown body with a pale face.
Jill Webb, Brand Development Director from Conran & Company says:
“This is a great opportunity to strengthen the already popular CONRAN brand in Japan within a very exciting product category.
It’s been a privilege working with such a prestigious partner and we are all really pleased with the product”
TV commercials will be run by LG in Japan to support the launch later this summer.
Here we are in The Sunday Telegraph Business section
and here’s some other links
There’s also this, on youtube