Design of the Year 2014
Ouyi Refrigerator
View the video about the Project
Show info
Designer
Electrolux S.E.A. Pte Ltd
Electrolux Group Design
Leonard Tan Bahroocha
Low Ko Wee
Lyndon Craig
Ola Lantz

Designed especially for the China market, Electrolux’s Ouyi Refrigerator has a simple yet modern design, is easy to clean, and offers flexibility features that maximise its potential for uses.

The fridge, which is highly intuitive and interactive, has a minimalist exterior that would blend seamlessly into any home. Its proximity sensor switches on the User Interface (UI) display to engage users instantly, while its IQTouch™ control panel’s TFT-colour LCD provides smart flexibility and control of the fridge’s functions. LightCraft™, a full-strip LED light-integrated handle, lights up gradually when the door is opened and closed.

Inside, the Flexstor™ door is easily reconfigured to make room for taller or larger items. Innovative Multiflow and Deofresh™ features enhance freshness, while the Nutrilight™ crisper preserves the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.

Like other kitchen products in the Ouyi range, the refrigerator was created by Electrolux’s Singapore-based, cross-discipline team comprising industrial and user-experience designers.

“When we received the brief, the first thing we did was conduct a competitive landscape exercise to understand the market. This allowed us to identify various elements where we can create differentiation for our products to ensure they stand out from the competition”, says Senior Design Manager Leonard Tan Bahroocha. “Consumer research and validation are important to our design process”.

For the user interface, Senior User Experience Designer Low Ko Wee and his teammates started by understanding users’ requirements and then designed the experience around them. “We built prototypes for user testing to understand their reactions towards our designs”, he adds.

Leonard and Ko Wee believe that design amplifies Ouyi’s functional features: the Flexstor interior allows for user customisation; and the LightCraft handle lights up when a user approaches the fridge.

Explaining how Ouyi makes a difference to people’s lives, Leonard says: “Refrigerators have always been seen as a product for food storage – functional and safe rather than a product based on style or proper food storage. However, as consumers become more discerning with their home interiors and the quality of food they consume, the refrigerator takes on a different personality in the home”. All its innovative features, Leonard emphasises, were designed “to change how we engage with the refrigerator in our everyday lives”.

Ouyi’s control panel is designed with a 2.4-inch TFT display with touch controls, Ko Wee points out. This is a one-of-a-kind feature. The idea is to allow users to get information about the refrigerator at their fingertips. “In doing so, we created an opportunity to remove user manuals”.

ABOUT THE DESIGNER

The Electrolux Group markets home appliances under the brands Electrolux and Electrolux Grand Cuisine, as well as those of other established names such as AEG, Zanussi and Frigidaire. Products it makes and sells include domestic appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, cookers, vacuum cleaners and air-conditioners.

Electrolux S.E.A’s design team, led by Leonard, works closely with Ko Wee and his team in Singapore. Together, they strive to develop “thoughtfully designed” products based on “deep consumer insight and in close collaboration with users”.

“I believe that design is about creating and communicating experiences. Users have physical and emotional reactions to a product. My goal is to create positive reactions and to enhance the experience that a product communicates”, says Leonard, who started his design career with Creative Technology, where he helped to design products such as multimedia speakers, web cameras and MP3 players. He also worked with Philips Design and Dell before joining Electrolux.

Born in Singapore to a Chinese father and Parsi mother, Leonard studied product design at Temasek Polytechnic before enhancing his studies in design at the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia.

Ko Wee, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Visual and Interaction Design from Umea Institute of Design in Sweden, and a Product and Industrial Design with Merit diploma from Temasek Polytechnic, designed the user interface for food preservation of the entire Ouyi range for China.

Prior to joining Electrolux in 2011, Ko Wee, worked for Hewlett-Packard and Philips Electronics in Singapore. He has also worked in other Asian countries, the United States and Europe.

Explaining their approach to teamwork, Leonard says: “We have a robust product development process with clear roles, responsibilities and deliverables from the multi-disciplinary project team. Weekly calls and frequent face-to-face meetings allow for clear communication and teamwork to get the project through from concept to production”.

Ko Wee adds: “It is important to have a ‘can do’ spirit and the resolve to push from concept to final execution”.

Commenting on the President’s Design Award’s influence on Singapore’s design scene, Leonard says: “The recognition that design has the ability to make a difference encourages designers to explore beyond their boundaries and believe in their design innovations”. Ko Wee feels that being recognised for their design efforts definitely encourages designers and pushes them to work harder. He says: “The Award motivates designers to challenge themselves to create something which is beneficial to the world”.

Advice to emerging designers:

“Innovation can be incremental changes in design that make meaningful differences to the user’s everyday life. This can be achieved through keen observation of how users interact with products.”

JURY CITATION

The Ouyi is a two-door refrigerator designed specifically for the Chinese market. This is a crowded market segment where consumers are spoilt for choice. The design team established a clear design brief from the start of the project and executed this with utmost professionalism. The original design concept was followed through to final production and the designers are commended for this.

The exterior form incorporates a subtle curve across the front doors that gives the fridge a unique design language. The team carefully considered the manufacturing process throughout the project. An example of this is the use of rolled tempered glass for the door covering that added minimal costs to the overall manufacturing process.

The doors include an intuitive touchscreen interface to control the fridge as well as an innovative motion detection system that activates a subtle light in the exterior door profile when a user approaches – a clever feature for night-time use. The light pulsates when the fridge door is left open, offering a clear visual indicator to users that the door has not been properly shut.

The interior design of the fridge is clean and simple, and reflects a modular approach to the design. The designers introduced an innovative clip system in the door to allow plastic bags to be clipped and stored – a feature particularly appreciated by Chinese users. From a sustainable design perspective, the manufacturing processes and materials used show careful consideration by the design team. Its energy usage gives the fridge the highest energy rating for a product in this category.

The Jury commended the design team for its pursuit of design excellence at every stage of this project.

NOMINATOR CITATION

Pernilla Johansson
Design Director Asia Pacific
Electrolux S.E.A Pte Ltd

The Electrolux Ouyi refrigerator was launched in China to provide a highly differentiated product that would enable consumers to spend less time on household chores and more on enjoying their passions. Through extensive consumer insight studies involving thousands of homes across China, we learnt that consumers want their fridges to look simple and be easy to clean; and they like a fridge to offer flexibility, allowing them to maximise its potential for specific uses. The clean, minimalist exterior was designed to blend seamlessly into any context, from the kitchen to the living area. Dubbed the “best looking fridge in China” by the trade for its modern integrated handles, seamless display and curved glass doors with soft corners, this highly intuitive refrigerator isn’t just engaging, it also rewards interaction.

The fridge’s proximity sensor switches on the UI in a seemingly magical way, instantly engaging and delighting consumers. The IQTouch™ control panel is designed with a TFT color LCD to provide flexibility and control of the fridge’s functions. A full-strip LED light integrated in the handle, LightCraft™, illuminates gradually when the door is opened and closed. It serves as a nightlight or party light to enhance the overall home ambience. Inside, the Flexstor™ door can be easily reconfigured, making room for taller bottles and larger items. Innovative features like Multiflow and Deofresh™ enhance freshness, while the Nutrilight™ crisper preserves the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.

The Electrolux Ouyi is breaking category standards with its unique user experience that offers consumers both inspiring design and confidence in food preservation.