Product Design as Art

industrial designer working on project in officeI love beautiful product design and I don’t think that I am alone in that. There is something about melding a unique form with great function that can speak to us and elevate objects to the realm of art. Materials, in addition to form, play an important part and there are currently several companies creating truly beautiful products out of intriguing materials. I was recently reminded of this when looking at the new Master and Dynamic Wireless Speaker which is made of concrete.

Engadget has a video and images here that show the finished product, the concrete case, and the video talks through some of the design process. The choice of concrete is unusual in the world of speaker design because it poses acoustic difficulties in addition to being heavy. Many of these problems were solved by creating a custom concrete composite specifically for this speaker. I love that this isn’t just another square, plastic speaker that sits on a shelf and plays music. It is a piece that anyone walking into a room will want to look at more closely.

Another product designer that is creating beautiful and interesting pieces is Joey Roth. His Sorapot is an elegantly modern metal and glass teapot that functions in a unique way. He has also created a set of gorgeous ceramic speakers (I obviously have a thing for audio equipment) that sit in simple plywood stands which don’t try to hide the fact that they are plywood. I appreciate it when designers highlight their material choices as opposed to trying to disguise them.

Grovemade is another company that is allowing their materials to speak through the design of the product. The lines from the layers of plywood on their computer stands emphasizes the graceful curves of the stands themselves. Their other products, in both walnut and maple, are equally beautiful in their simplicity and expression of materials. Their watch is sure to draw attention—not only for its wood face—but also for its novel way of telling time without watch hands. As an additional bonus the company is located here in Portland, Oregon.

I appreciate that these companies are dedicating resources to create products that are works of art in their own right. They aren’t looking to create mass market items that will be on every shelf, in every store, at the lowest possible cost. I believe that this mentality can help raise expectations from consumers and drive improved design and material choices that trickle down to mass market products.

Are there any products that stand out as works of art to you? Join the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter.

— Aaron Baldwin, Senior Designer