Consumers drive evolution in wiring accessories

The importance of intuitive and custom design for wiring accessories. By Jason Ng, marketing communications specialist at MK Electric

Before a small selection of consumer brands – most famously Apple led by its late founder Steve Jobs and chief designer Sir Jonathan Ives – turned the notion completely on its head, it was once accepted wisdom that function would always trump form when consumers were faced with choosing between competing technology products.

Today, despite their transformative effect on the intersection of design and technology, manufacturers charged with mass producing consumer-facing technology could be forgiven for cursing Apple, Ives and Jobs. Why? Because the success of the company’s products – the iPod, iPhone and iPad – has completely and irreversibly reshaped our expectations of technology.

Take headphones as an example. Jump on a bus or train in an international city like New York, London or Hong Kong and you’ll notice that headphones are no longer just a device for listening to music. Today, they are fashion accessories, labels, brands; available in a rainbow of different colours, complete with funky designs on the earphones.

Another example of the intersection of design and technology is Motorola Mobility’s Moto X, the first-ever smartphone to incorporate real bamboo into the body and featuring natural finishes and distinct grains. Styling ‘functional’ products with unconventional types of materials is a strong movement in design today.

This trend has had a transformational impact on the electrical industry too. For years, electric sockets and light switches were just an accepted compromise in a consumer’s otherwise perfect bathroom, kitchen, lounge or hotel room. Wiring accessories have been the anomaly for too long. In the worst case, they are an eyesore that detract from the overall impact of a space. In the best case, they are designed to blend in and look as inoffensive as possible. The democratisation of design has put paid to that cosy little compromise.

As electrical manufacturers start to raise their game – offering a wide selection of customised finishes matching seasonal trends – architects are running out of reasons to accept that wiring accessories are an inevitable eye sore to be hidden away, covered up or concealed.

Architects everywhere invest a significant amount of time and energy creating a space that perfectly matches their client’s vision. A sleek and stylish minimalist space or imposing function room; every detail is obsessed over, as they instinctively understand that the finished article is the result of a thousand small, carefully made decisions.

With the latest innovation in fashionable, customisable electric sockets and light switches, architects are presented with another big opportunity to bring their grand design to life – think sockets made from oak or switches made from glass. It is a new and emerging way of ensuring a building’s interior is perfectly balanced.

Consumers are also coming to expect wiring accessories that contain smart technology while looking chic and fitting into a room’s overall look and feel. One of the most widely adopted technological innovations in recent years has been the touch user interface, appearing first in smartphones and then spreading to tablets and upmarket laptops.

The technology has been a hit with Generation Y in particular. Market research into young consumers aged 18-34, a key sector in predicting technology trends, revealed that 97 per cent found touch technology convenient, while 96 per cent said it made their life easier and 9 out of 10 agreed it saves them time. The lesson is clear; millennials expect touch functionality.

In order to stay ahead of customer demands, architects must keep up with the changing trends in the wiring accessories industry, and concentrate on incorporating light switches and electric sockets into their projects that use the same type of interface and design that would be as familiar as the phone in a customer’s pocket or the tablet in their bag.

As with any change in the status quo, there will be winners and losers – and the winners will be those that stay ahead of consumer behaviour. As the democratisation of design marches on, your clients will expect nothing less.