IHA got acquainted with Kelly Clark and Edward Laganis of Smart Design to learn about how designers create connected devices that best fit the needs of people as they live in their homes, which they will describe at the 2019 International Home + Housewares Show. At the Show, the Innovation Theater will feature 21 presentations over four days. Topics discussed will include design innovation, smart home, digital commerce, and global market trends.
Based in New York and London, Smart Design is a strategic design company. The firm believes in designing with people and for people to create a smarter, more sustainable world. Since 1980, Smart Design has been helping companies reimagine the future, creating an unparalleled portfolio of work in mobility, health and consumer products and services. Best known in the housewares industry tor the iconic OXO peeler and the later Good Grips product line, Smart Design also created the Gatorade Gx platform. Launching category-defining products, services and experiences is their specialty.
With a rich heritage in humanizing emerging technologies and unique expertise in bridging the physical and digital, Smart Design provides real-world solutions to clients’ tough challenges. No matter how technology evolves, their fundamental goal remains the same: to make experiences more intuitive, enjoyable and relevant for the people who will use them.
This session will be a panel discussion with Kelly Clark, John Anderson and Edward Laganis, all from Smart Design’s New York studio.
Kelly Clark, executive design director at Smart Design is a seasoned creative leader with more than 20 years of experience in user-centered design and brand experience. She leads the New York studio’s interaction design discipline to develop impactful and engaging digital products. Kelly has expertise in financial services, technology, retail, media and education. She has worked with a variety of clients, including Apple, Bank of America, Capital One, Discovery Channel, HP, Intel, Oracle and Williams-Sonoma.
Joining Kelly will be design engineering director Edward Laganis, who leads development of tangible solutions, technical details and process improvements, along with technology director John Anderson, who takes a lead role in shaping innovative processes, pilots and experiments.
What is the most exciting or rewarding part of your work?
KELLY: We design products, both digital and physical, that are memorable and have lasting value — products that are meaningful. In a world of rapid consumption and an overwhelming selection of products and services, when people use products they truly value and that help them in their daily lives, it makes me proud to be a designer. I’m actually providing a useful and lasting solution and positive experience, not just something that sits on a shelf.
ED: It’s the idea that someone will experience a product and love it so much they’ll talk about it. Much like cooking a dish for a party or a building a home for a family, you don’t want to give them the status quo but surprise, delight, and even have them experience something better. Creating those moments inspires me.
Can you name a pivotal event or project that impacted your career or company?
KELLY: Many years ago I redesigned a major bank’s online account servicing. While my clients showered the company with their appreciation, it was the incredible volume of positive feedback we received from customers that had the greatest impact. I design for people at the center of a solution, whether this is to delight, educate or help. This was a resounding affirmation that a design solution could greatly improve a person’s relationship with their bank, simplify their life and reduce frustrations.
ED: Being asked to join Smart Design and help lead the relationship with OXO – a well-respected brand in the home.
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business?
KELLY: Consolidation. So many design firms are being acquired by large holding companies and business consultancies. Smart Design remains independent, passionate and more out of the box. Our design solutions reflect this — striving to get to the right solution, a differentiated design, without the formulas or stipulations large organizations have in place.
ED: Consumers are wanting less quantity and more quality – something meaningful and more considered.
Any tips for how to de-stress and find balance in the demanding 24/7 workplace?
KELLY: I’m a walker. I walk 4-5 miles a day in my commute to and from work. The walk prepares me for the day ahead in the morning, then sheds the stress of the day and clears my mind in the evening.
ED: I schedule a run or bike ride just like I do a meeting or task – it clears my head and allows me to disconnect quickly and relax.
A Smarter Tomorrow: Designing a Connected Home with Meaning
Monday, March 4 • 1:30 – 2:20 p.m.
Innovation Theater • Lakeside Center, Room E350
What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
KELLY: This is my first time presenting and I’m looking forward to sharing our ideas, concepts and vision for meaningful products in the home. I think the discussion around the connected home, the products that support the now and the future, should be people-first. Tech overshadows what fundamentally is about people in their most treasured place — home. It’s not delivering a presentation that I most look forward to. It’s meeting with fellow attendees and mingling, sharing ideas, stories and expertise.
ED: I love the Q & A time – I feel it adds more color to a canned talk and can keeps everyone on their toes as to what the audience is thinking. Smart Design has done so much within the Smart Home space (from security, robots, home health, heating, to voice etc.), and we are big believers in putting people before technology. Our ethos is that design is about people, not things. It will be great to share the stage with my colleagues and talk about how we make that a reality using our different design and engineering perspectives.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products or how to shop for them?
KELLY: There’s too much choice, and while ratings can sometimes guide a purchase decision, it’s still difficult to know what to buy. Decision criteria can be very specific and often personal. For example, a person is looking for a new 12” non-stick skillet with a lid. What they are most interested in a high heat tolerance, non-toxic coating skillet. If the consumer is using online search to help them find the pan, do the merchants have the right SEO in place to help them find what they are looking for? If the consumer is in store, they also may not find enough information without reading every box or label.
ED: They expect more quality and value than ever. Having access to reviews has made them far more savvy when getting the best quality for their dollar. It’s also a platform to vent when it doesn’t meet that expectation. It’s an instant “Consumer Reports” at your figure tips – except the assessment of the result are not scientifically tested or calculated.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals and/or retailers face in the housewares market?
ED: COGS (cost of goods sold) keeps rising and the end consumer is not yet aware of some of the impacts our new political stances have at retail. These include tariffs on top of rising labor and material costs. The consumer expectation doesn’t decrease – as a matter of fact, they continue to increase as we design for the 5-star review. This increases the risk and development investment.
Thank you, Kelly and Ed, for telling us about yourselves and how Smart Design approaches problem solving. Smart Design has long been recognized as a leading design firm that creates breakthrough products and experiences. The three of you have so much combined expertise in studying consumers and their needs, along with deep understanding of how to shape meaningful and efficient interactive digital experiences. We look forward to your conversation about how connected devices can enhance life at home, March 4, Monday at 1:30 p.m. in the Innovation Theater.
For Show attendees eager to learn more about your work in the connected device field, John Anderson will also appear earlier this same day at Smart Talks in the nearby Smart Home pavilion. John will be on the Smart Talks stage on Monday at 11:30 -1155 a.m. to tell us about Shifting Frontiers: Designing Inclusively with Voice Technology, a critical application that is growing more popular and can ease users’ lives.
We are grateful to Smart Design for the double dose of information!
For further information on the work of Smart Design, see www.smartdesignworldwide.com
Learn from experts about how to invigorate your new products and services by enhancing your innovation efforts. Be sure to attend the free executive-level educational sessions at the Innovation Theater to hear about the latest research and analysis of home trends and developments for the smart home, kitchen, health care and other categories. These programs will give you a fresh perspective as you walk the Show and will inspire, inform and improve your business. All programs will be audio-recorded and will be available at www.housewares.org after the Show.