This is a question which I have been thinking for a while.
As a B.A. student in industrial design, I have learnt how to design traditional products (like furniture, household appliances and industrial devices). However, I have found that many traditional products nowadays have become "Smart Product" — linked to the Internet and controlled by APP on smart devices.
GOOGLE GLASS, which is a subversive design, makes the simple thing, whose basic function is providing poor-sighted people to see the world clearly, become a super device. You can take pictures, record videos or even find the best way to Rome by it. Our ancestors must be surprised what a pair of glasses can do nowadays. It seems that such success smart products like GOOGLE GLASS have announce to the world that " With the help of Internet, people can do everything with their personal devices." and " If everything is linked to the Internet, people can save the world." ( just kidding)
However, this trend in design does make me confused. Especially in my homeland — China, which has the largest smart phone users in the world, many industrial designers would like to design a product, whatever it is, with an APP linked. Traditional products like furniture are no longer popular among designers. This may be because the current market trend leads traditional products not as competitive as before, since electronic devices and smart devices always have high price, and are popular among the young and middle-aged, who are the major consumers in society.
With this trend in design, we have been be involved in an " APP - Tornado". For users, they are provided with hundreds and thousands of APPs. For example, my mother, a mid-aged women with little interest in electronic devices, have to install more than 80 Apps on her Iphone ( 33 of them come with IOS and can't be uninstalled). But according to my statistics, she always use only 10 of them. The APPs which aren't usually used are such like official APP for shops, App for our refrigerator, APP for banks. For designers and developers, they spent their energy and money develop many unnecessary products. What's more, many young people in China nowadays become self-employed with a belief that " If I can make my APP go online on APP STORN, I can make a big fortune." But a large number of them failed. Only those with good product, which has real users, survived.
As a designer, I always hold the belief that I should only create products which are really needed and used by people.
Since now we are not lack of products, but are lacking in good products. A good product should be designed according to people's real need, solve their painpoints and improve our life, instead of only chasing the trend.
If I plan to design a chair for the Chinese public, I would like to design a traditional chair in a good form of Chinese characteristics and well-considered ergonomics. I won't make it be fixed with sensors all around and linked to an APP which can tell you your weight and sitting posture.
Although I believe to some people in some occasion, a weight-telling chair is useful, to the public who only want to have a comfortable seat, a traditional chair is no wonder a better choice. After all, most people won't catch their phone, open the APP to check their weight when they seat on the chair after they go back home from work and just want to relax and have a good meal with their family. This isn't a logical user scenario.
In conclusion, I suppose while smart devices, the use of big data and "Internet +" are popular, we shouldn't link everything to the Internet. Before design a App, think about the Persona, the scenario and the design orientation. Then it will be clear whether it needs an APP or not.
Written by Amy Xiao
In an rainy midnight in Shanghai