The beauty of simplicity

  • The challenges of designing for the connected home
  • Form and function

There are certain areas of technology where the look of a product is almost as important as what it does. That shiny new computer, those slick cinema sound speakers, your mobile phone – all are blessed with the touch of a product design guru.

When it comes to more mundane domestic items though, from irons to toasters to boilers, we’re still stuck in an old-school style. With that in mind, the announcement of a new thermostat would generally be as interesting as the news that someone from The Apprentice was doing panto this year.

Unless, that is, the thermostat in question was designed by Yves Béhar – one of the world’s most renowned product designers. He’s the founder and principal designer of fuseproject, an award-winning industrial design and brand development firm that counts Apple, Puma, Samsung and Prada among its clients. He’s also the chief creative officer of top technology company Jawbone."The biggest challenge of designing connected products, is to really let the human experience drive you, not the technology."

Brought in to oversee design on the Hive Active Heating™ 2 thermostat, the result is a truly gorgeous piece of kit. With a smart, square case, offset with a reflective mirrored finish, it comes in a variety of colours and offers a functionality that allows you to control it remotely from your phone or computer.  But, it’s the subtlety of the design that has caught the attention of design junkies.

“It’s about being unobtrusive, with the technology in the background, blending in,” says Béhar.

Hive designer Yves Béhar showcases the colourful collection

"What's unique with these kind of projects is you really have to conceive of the digital part, the experience part and the physical part."This notion of being unassuming, of technology taking a backseat, is one of his design principles. “I think the biggest challenge of designing connected products, is to really let the human experience drive you. How can we design things to be discreet, to respond naturally to our behaviour, to our needs?”

And while the products he designs are clearly commercial, they are also, in a sense, artistic works. Although their form has been driven by their function, Béhar never loses sight of the need to make them visually appealing.

“For me, the junction between commerce and art is a natural place to be, that’s where I feel most comfortable,” he says.

“What’s unique with these kinds of projects is you really have to conceive of the digital part, the experience part, at the same time as you conceive of the physical part. If not, you’re just a carrier for the software, or the design imposes restrictions on user interaction.”

The result of this iconic Swiss designer’s efforts is a modern device that doesn’t intrude on interior design. There is also a new suite of internet-connected products, designed in-house by Hive, such as motion sensors, smart plugs and active lights, and all to be released in autumn 2015. This Hive is truly buzzing.

 

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