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Column: (Design-)Criticism on The Progress of Technology

In recent years, a lot has happened in the market of photography, digital data processing, locomotion and communication. While companies such as Apple or Samsung are constantly trying to outdo each other with new smartphones or watches, Tesla, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are making great strides in the field of all-electric mobility, and HTC and Oculus are engaged in virtual duels to fight for the better VR producer. But basically everything has remained the same?! This is illustrated above all by the presentation of the "New Nokia 3310" and the fact that electrical markets such as MediaMarkt are selling records again.

Back to the roots: Is that what people want?!

Looking at the smartphone market, it quickly becomes apparent that not so much has changed. This is also shown by the example of Nokia. The mobile phone giant of the time has been in the last few years - thanks to its unpopular Windows Phones - a real shadowy existence, but at this moment one celebrates the very big comeback and would like to ascend with new smartphones with an elegant design to a new, old size - and this despite the fact that the most sought-after "smartphone" does not fit into the category “Smart” at all, but still has a promising appeal to the customers.

With the introduction of the new Nokia 3310, a classic in bar format, which is based on its predecessor in terms of design and supposedly designed to be just as robust, it shows what many people actually want: Back to the roots. The mobile phone equipped with the deadly Symbian shows itself to be unbeatable. It binds people emotionally, awakens old memories and presents itself as a simple means of communication even without WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter. Take the charging cable with you on holiday in Italy? Why, if the battery lasts for 25 days and a 20-hour telephone call is no problem thanks to the flat rate?!

Going with the times, whether you like it or not

So why not jump off the whole smartphone hype and return to the origin of mobile communication with a simple mobile phone? Why does it have to be a totally overpriced 7.1 hi-fi system? And why is it not enough to have a classic amplifier or grandfather's record player?

Although it is impressive what possibilities and progress the technology offers us, we are not forced to go along on our own because of the “being there”? After all, there are those people who enjoy the latest smartphone from their favourite brand and happily invest up to 1,000 euros every six months for a device in an online shop that was basically designed for communication. But in the meantime, the gadgets can identify stars, call up the weather and control the coffee machine, but the actual (communication) function is hardly given any attention. It's scary how many friends ask for permission to call you via WhatsApp instead of just calling and asking if you have time to make a phone call.

Design reduces itself to a minimum

Comparing the current IKEA product range with the furniture design of the past 100 years, it is immediately apparent that the design has become almost boring. Clear lines and minimalist forms in combination with uniform colours create a modern look, but the antiques of the last century are gorgeous, playful and lavishly decorated. The quality standard at that time was already completely different due to the complete production with bare hands and the associated craftsmanship. The more elaborate decorations the single pieces carried, the more expensive and the more time-consuming the production.

A similar change can also be seen in architecture. Elaborately built houses, as can be found in cities such as Marburg or Dresden, are increasingly being replaced by simple concrete blocks, into which up to twelve parties move in within a very short time, just to get on their nerves with loud music and arguments. It is sad to see how many elaborately decorated design classics, which were produced with a lot of energy, can be found on the bulky refuse just because generation Y doesn't appreciate the hard work of the past years.

Why does it all look the same?!

In the smartphone industry, it is now the case that almost all competitors present themselves with one and the same design. Of course, why change anything if a concept works well. In the end, it is only minimal changes in shape, colour or manufacturing quality that Otto's standard consumers find difficult to perceive.

But there are also differences. Compared to the first mobile phones, smartphones in Look and Feel have changed a lot in the meantime, but Nokia has proven once again that it can be good to stay true to its old design and not to destroy the customer's relationship with the first Nokia 3310. Thus, the new 3310 does not present itself as a completely new device for the user, but rather as modernized updates that still continue to follow the principles of its predecessor.

But there are also positive examples...

If you think about the change in technology and design that can be found in many different areas, it would be appropriate to remain true to its roots now and then. A positive example of this are companies such as Leica, Braun or Nokia, which come up with new innovations but still stick to their (design) roots. If these companies no longer exist, is it the case that good design will eventually develop to such an extent that the quality still associated with it will fall by the wayside?!

What do you think about the progress of technology and the change in design? Are we going in the right direction? And what do you think about such columns, would you like to read more of these articles here at DESIGNLOVR? We are looking forward to your feedback or criticism in the comments!