Designer    News 29 Nov 2012

Floating Extractors? Electrolux Design Lab reveals the kitchen technology of the future

The latest Electrolux Design Lab once again gives us the clues to the kitchen technology of the future, writes Grahame Morrison

Refrigerators that chill the containers and not the cavity, extractors that float in the air, food containers that show at a glance when the contents are about to pass their safe ‘eat-buy’ dates and scanners that can produce a menu from the ingredients already to hand – these are a few of the delights that await the kitchen users of the future according to ten of the brightest new product designers.

Electrolux recently held the 10th finals of its prestigious Design Lab competition – somewhat appropriately – in the city of Milan, one of the world’s great design capitals. Over 1,200 design graduates representing over 50 countries entered this year, with the list eventually whittled down to just 10 finalists.

The Design Lab finals were introduced by Stefano Marzano, Chief Design Officer at Electrolux, who has strong links himself with Milan. Until 1998, he was a Professor at the Domus Academy in Milan. In 1999–2001, he was a Visiting Professor at the polytechnic institute in Milan, Politecnico di Milano.


Marzano explained where the event fitted into Electrolux thinking. “Design Lab is an expression of new behaviour,” he said. “Food is an expression of culture and a company that works with food preparation, food storage or cooking is intimately connected to that culture.

“Innovation meanwhile is the ‘stakeholder’ of the future, and there are three ‘horizons’ of innovation. The first is a short term horizon, a three-year plan. Horizon two is a mid-term plan of, say three-to-five years. The third innovation horizon calls for thinking of what we will be doing and using in 2020-2025.”

Each year, Electrolux chooses a new competition theme based on consumer insight and global trend analysis. Through the years, students have been asked to come up with solutions adapted to such complex scenarios as the increasingly urbanised world, our new mobile lifestyle or how appliances will look 90 years from now.

This year, Electrolux challenged students to draw inspiration from professional experience creators (chefs, architects, interior designers, hotel designers etc.) to design home appliances that will provide a fuller sensory experience, perhaps through state of the art technology or possibly through a clever blend of textures and surfaces.

This challenge led to a tighter focus than previous Design Labs, certainly as far as the finalists entries were concerned, as all of the projects were linked either to cooking or food storage.

Third place and the People’s Award (based on online voting from the public in the run up to the final) went to Christopher Holm-Hansen for Tastee – a taste indicating concept.

This year’s Design Lab runner up was Ben de la Roche for Impress –  a food storage concept that cools the food holders rather than the whole cavity of the refrigerator.

The top prize of 5,000 Euros and a six-month paid internship at one of Electrolux design centres went to Jan Ankiersztajn for Aeroball. The Aeroball is a revolutionary way to improve the spaces in which we live. In tiny bubbles that float and hover, the Aeroball cleans and filters the air while hovering in place.

The other ideas presented at this year’s Design Lab included a coffee maker that used a hand scan to ‘remember’ a user’s precise taste for coffee; a pot stirrer that used the magnetic field in an induction hob to power it and rotate the stirring action; a tree-like structure that holds containers of pre-cooked meals, each of which could be heated up after receiving a signal from a mobile phone; and an over-table scanner that could produce a menu from the available ingredients and set the lighting levels to set the right mood for the meal to follow.

But will the Aeroball or any of the other nine finalists’ projects make it to the production line? Thomas Johansson, Design Director at Electrolux, admits that this is unlikely, but that is not the main point behind Design Lab.

“It is part of Electrolux’s world-wide research programme,” he said. “Design Lab gives us feedback from emerging designers throughout the world and while these projects themselves may not get to the high streets as products, the thinking that has gone into them will certainly influence the products we will all use in the future.”


Aeroball by Jan Ankiersztajn

The Aeroball is a revolutionary way to improve the spaces in which we live, says its creator Polish designer Jan Ankiersztajn.In tiny bubbles that float and hover, the Aeroball cleans and filters the air while hovering in place. And when filtering alone is not enough, the Aeroball comes in scented varieties.

Designed with inspiration from nature, the shell of the Aeroball absorbs light during the day and uses this energy to let it glow like a firefly at night. Aeroball was the winner of Design Lab 2012.

RUNNER UP: Impress by Ben de la Roche

Impress is a refrigeration wall that holds your food and drink for you out in the open, not hidden behind a refrigerator door. Rather than chill a cabinet which may or may not have food in it, it turns the food containers into individual refrigerators that can be seen so the lunch prepared for work will not be overlooked.

Impress does not refrigerate when there is nothing in it and uses less power when there are fewer units in it so the user will not waste leftovers or energy. Impress is by New Zealand designer Ben de la Roche, a student at Massey University, and was the Design Lab 2012 Runner-up.

2nd RUNNER UP: Tastee by Christopher Holm-Hansen

Tastee is a taste indicator that is used when cooking to assist the chef in bringing out the flavours of a meal. Designed by Christopher Holm-Hansen, a student at the Technical University of Denmark, it uses receptors based on the human taste bud to indicate what is needed to make the meal balanced and flavourful. Tastee was the winner of the Design Lab 2012 People’s Award and won third prize of the Design Lab competition.