Making “cheap” products look expensive

Oct. 16, 2012
Industrial designers use tried-and-true tricks to make economical products look expensive.

Authored by:
Craig Miloscia
Optic Lingo Inc.
Akron, Ohio

Edited by Leslie Gordon
[email protected]
Twitter @LeslieGordon

Optic Lingo Inc.

For everything from coat hangers to cars, industrial designers use tried-andtrue tricks to make economical products look expensive. For example, how do designers create an attractive coat hanger for mass production that can be sold for $15 each? To start, they use an inexpensive hardwood with a highgloss finish and use simple pegs that require minimal tooling to hold the parts together. They also design hangers to be lightweight to keep down shipping. Those tips alone helped designers create a coat hanger that’s been bought by the hundreds of thousands at big-box stores.

Some companies such as housewares supplier InterDesign in Solon, Ohio, demands this simple, modern approach. That’s why the housewares section at your local Target features so many low-cost items with trendsetting finishes and textures, sleek styling, userfriendly operation, and colors that work well together.

Target recently selected InterDesign’s Buzzo rack for its Cool Stuff Collection. The rack is made of stylish silver-plated, low-carbon steel wire and wood balls. The bars are flattened and pierced for a cost-effective, yet elegant mount. Designers extended the line simply and inexpensively by adding a twohook rack with the same distinct look as the larger four-hook rack.

Also consider InterDesign’s Seville Bath Hardware, a line of matching towel bars, towel rings, tissue holder, and multipurpose hook, all made from braided steel. The clean, modern shape and Mercedes-silver powder-coat finish make them look costly.

It’s also a good idea to check out car interiors to see how different materials enhance users’ experience. For example, Kia Rio designers created new colors from scratch, mixing and matching them with different textiles, fabrics, and materials, all to please the driver’s eye.

In trying to create the right colors, designers took into account the surroundings of would-be drivers as well as cultural color codes. Designers wanted the colors to scream “luxury” while evoking a feather-soft sensation. They created Wendy Brown, a rich chocolate color, for instance, to target stylish and chic fashionforward drivers. Designers also searched long and hard for the interior colors. They came up with “Armani Black,” which has hint of deep blue that is said to glisten in a soft light, and a grayish beige that’s supposed to convey the feeling of urban luxury.

Even areas in the car where drivers rest their hands came under close scrutiny. The crush pad on the steering wheel sports in-mold graining to give a more luxurious feel to the touch and includes Nano PU material that prevents damage from daily wear.

Edited by Leslie Gordon

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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