Supporting products, also known as accessories, have traditionally been the ugly duckling of design. In the years to come, however, they could take the leading role of a new revolution.
Last week I attended a fashion showroom organized by Simon, a Spanish manufacturer of plugs and switches, to celebrate its 100 years of history. Plugs and switches? Yes, I know that these accessories or “supporting products” are far from the glamour of products such as lamps, bikes or smartphones, which occupy the leading role in design magazines.
But if you haven’t noticed it yet, a revolution is taking place: the design has reached the accessories.
In the world of design there has always been a hierarchy. On the one hand, the main role taken by products in which the designers and marketers focus all their efforts and. On the other hand, those near-invisible and forgotten supporting products without which, however, leading products wouldn’t work.
Examples of this product-accessory binomial are: lamp & cable, computer & charger, radio & earphones, wall & plug.
Forgotten by designers, the accessories have been traditionally ugly and user-unfriendly. We always try to hide them, placing the computer charger behind or under the table, keeping the cable of our headphones inside the jacket, putting a chair in front of the cable. Is it necessary to continue?
With their supporting role, accessories are incredible important and ignoring them is a mistake. If accessories are poorly designed, the use of the products can be a frustrating experience. Paying attention to the design of the accessories as well as the leading product is essential to offer a whole great experience.
One of the first companies to take the accessories seriously was Apple, designing an elegant, lightweight, simple and soft to the touch charger. The Apple charger stopped being a necessary nuisance, to become an element that brought beauty to the laptop.
A similar process happened with the headphones. We have gone from the tinyn and uncomfortable headphones of black hard plastic, to the huge and colored headphones that young people proudly wear, despite the big space they take up in their backpacks.
This change has not yet come to the majority of support products, but forward-looking manufacturers have realized that they must apply design if they want to survive and grow. Simon is certainly an excellent example. Just see how they describe their switches: “Light Up Emotions”, “Keep Feeling”, “Welcome to a New World of Emotions”.
Simon is not the first case of design applied to the accessories, but attending their fashion showroom has confirmed me an increasing trend. Other noteworthy examples could be the cables of the lamps of Denoe Design that I could see in the Design Market organized by the Museum of Design of Barcelona in 2015 or the USB wall chargers of KSIX that I found in the Mobile World Congress of 2016.
Let’s be attentive. The next design revolution will be starred by the accessories.