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Don’t lose the design poetry

Sven Baacke, global head of design at Gaggenau, believes there’s a fine art to balancing beauty and performance.
Don’t lose the design poetry

The thing about kitchens is that they’re quite emotional spaces, ones that evoke strong associations and feelings – whether it’s childhood memories of grandma’s cooking or the first time you stepped into your own kitchen. Architecture may have changed, technology may have changed, but what remains consistent is the expectation that a good kitchen will have a certain feeling to it.

What complicates matters for us as designers is that kitchen appliances are not stand-alone objects, like a car, for example. They are part of the larger design of a room, which is part of the whole environment of the home. The design of a house seldom starts with the oven, but it’s very important that your oven, stove and fridge function holistically within the bigger scheme of things.

Consider, also, that we’re making powerful tools. Design is not just about how it looks; it’s also about how it works. The development of any new product ought to be the result of careful deliberation; a new design should move things forward. The kitchen is a place where you want to do something, or create something, and what we make helps you to do that ‘something’ better. It’s like having a really good knife that’s a pleasure to own and a pleasure to work with.

The difference with larger appliances, like ovens and fridges, is that they’re very technical products. They have to be able to withstand extremes of heat and cold, moisture and fire. They have to last for a long time, so there are also material restrictions. We work very closely with engineers to constantly improve the performance of our appliances. But the user doesn’t really need to see that, so, often, our job is about making those high-tech aspects of design invisible. We clean things up, all those screws and bits and pieces that distract you from what you really want to do in the kitchen. Our full surface induction cooktop, for example, provides a boundless expanse of surface in glass, allowing cookware to be placed anywhere upon it.

One of our major tasks is to take away as much as we can to achieve the essence of a design, but at the same time, we have to be careful that we don’t take away the poetry: it’s a fine line.

Getting the right user interface and user interaction is about providing a more seamless experience. Sometimes, we have really tangible buttons and dials, but with our cooktop, new concepts are introduced such as intuitive control and touch displays. So, I believe that when it comes to kitchen appliances, a holistic approach takes into account beauty and performance. We want to make appliances that people are proud to own and are a joy to use. But the intangible part of the design that is so important is the ability to create those special moments that cement emotions. That’s the essence of the kitchen. And if you can get that right, the appliance itself infuses the kitchen, and the home, with that essential emotion that everyone understands. Holistic design comes full circle.

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