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A Blueprint for Success

Superior Product Design Adds Value and Provides Real Solutions.

Have you ever wondered why some products sell faster than others? Or why, with various products at the same price point, some look more expensive than the rest? Or why installers rave about some products, while cursing others? It might just be the industrial design.

From an increased perceived value, simplicity of operation to ease of installation, blending unobtrusively into a dcor or jumping out with a wow factor, design often makes the difference between excellence and mediocrity.

First impressions count and whether positive or otherwise, they are lasting ones. And nothing makes a stronger first impression than a well-designed product. Products are often sold (or passed over) based on the buyers instant impression of it and no amount of demonstration, selling or discounting will change their mind. This is true for a dealer selling to a consumer and for a supplier selling to a dealer. Design sets products apart from one another.

Taking IDs Pulse
Industrial design, often referred to as product design, can mean different things to different people. For many, it relates strictly to cosmetics or aesthetic style. However industrial design often deals with ergonomicsas in how intuitive, comfortable, and easy to operate a product is. Or it can even mean a product that is easier or more flexible to install. And it can have a direct effect on the bottom line from the manufacturer all the way to the installer.

With all that in mind, why not ask several of the industrys leading custom retailers and systems integrators what one product they feel epitomizes excellent industrial design? They were asked to consider all the types of products they use in their business and their preference for the design can be for any reasoncosmetic, ease of installation, simplicity of use, unique features, wow factor, or a combination of the above.

The seven responses included a user interface, a multi-room audio system, a music server, a video mount device, a programmable shade system, a deluxe user interface, a wall switch/vacancy sensor, and an on-wall loudspeaker. The choices and reasons behind the selections were as diverse as the products themselves. Clearly, this is only a small sampling of all the dealers who appreciate industrial design as well as the many excellent products in our industry. Yet its useful to continually see top custom retailers and systems integrators that value industrial design, the diversity of their choices and all the benefits that they bring.

Tim Rooney, All Around Technology

Tim Rooney, All Around TechnologyFor Tim Rooney of All Around Technology in Rockville, Maryland, of all the number of products that came to mind for this topic, one stood out: Lutrons Sivoia Shade System. The Sivoia QED (Quiet Electronic Drive) family of controllable shading products includes roller shades, Roman shades, and drapery track systems. All systems operate with ultra-quiet precision, low-voltage drives, and offer many options for fabrics and controls. Sivoia QED allows interior designers, architects, builders, and homeowners to utilize a custom-built shading system with various configurations and fabrics that are suited to their specific application.

The Sivoia QED (Quiet Electronic Drive) family of controllable shading products includes roller shades, Roman shades, and drapery track systems.The Lutron Sivoia shade system is a great alternative to standard motorized blinds, which are incredibly loud and difficult to integrate both electronically and aesthetically, Rooney explained. In addition to being sexy and high tech, they have the industrys lowest profile dual-shade system. This is an important benefit because most shades require close to seven inches of window depth, while the Sivoia only needs three and a half inches. Its a very well designed product that for all my customers who have them, love.

Eric Rossi, Integrated Electronics
In multi-room audio, many agree that the most important component is the user interface. For the end-user it represents the system and is what will be shown to the neighbor or brother-in-law rather than the rack of equipment in the closet. User interfaces, including keypads, touchscreens, and remotes, must be attractive, intuitive, and above all, easy to use. If they are not, the system may never get used. Perhaps of all products in custom today, UIs have received the highest attention to industrial design.

Niles Audio’s IntelliControl ICSFor Eric Rossi of Integrated Electronics in Brookfield, Connecticut, he chose the Niles IntelliControl ICS, a multi-room audio system that accommodates all of todays popular sources. ICS delivers detailed information to and from its keypads, touchscreens, and wireless remote controls. The system can also accommodate subsystems, such as lighting control and music servers.

Rossi, who after working for 14 years for a large AV firm, started his own company in 2000, commented, The programming interface, ease of setup, sound quality, variety of user interfaces, and perceived value of the ICS make it the best system I have ever sold. To date, I have over two dozen of these systems out there, and every client loves their system. They find it nice looking and easy to use, so I have had no negative feedback. For me, that is huge.

Jay Frank, Evolution AudioVideo
Ease of use and an intuitive user interface showed up big in this survey. Ease of installation, ergonomics, and simplicity of operation are critical in todays market of high tech gadgets. Consumers are bombarded with so much technology that they readily appreciate electronics that are user friendly with easy access to the features they want, when they want them.

Qsonix’s Q110 systemFor that very reason, Jay Frank of Evolution AudioVideo in Agoura Hills, California, selected the Qsonix Digital Music System. The companys Q110 music management system offers a reliable and friendly solution with a unique touchscreen-based graphical interface that enables the entire family to store, organize, and play their music library throughout the house. The Q110 system includes a four-zone music server and integrated touchscreen controller that can optionally be integrated with many home automation solutions as well.

Frank described the Qsonix user interface as the most inviting of any audio server on the market today. Clients, he said, are instantly drawn to it because of its attractive and colorful design. In fact, Evolution keeps the touchscreen portion of the system in its reception area for all to see. Everyone that walks through our door gravitates to it and begins using the Qsonix on their own, Frank said. Within a few minutes, most clients have mastered how to play songs without any instruction from us. Obviously, if this unit is so easy to use, this can help calm any preconceived techno fears and help smooth the way for other lines we carry.

Shawn Smith, S&S Electric

Shawn Smith, S&S ElectricA user interface with a green twist is the WattStopper RD-200, which was selected by Shawn Smith of S&S Electric in Oldsmar, Florida. S&S is one of the leading technology companies in Florida for new home construction, so Smiths company is always looking for well-styled products that are easy to install and deliver performance and value for both his builders and their customers. The RD-200 is a passive infrared dimming wall switch vacancy sensor, making it a good fit for energy-conscious homeowners.

With the current economic and energy situation, more and more consumers are looking for eco-friendly (green) design for their new homes but they also want value and versatility in a product that looks good, Smith said. With the new Dimming Vacancy Sensor from Watt Stopper/Legrand you get three valuable benefits. 1) You get the energy savings features of a Vacancy Sensor; 2) you get the energy savings features of a dimmer; and 3) you get the warmth, ambiance, and control of a dimmer.

Robert Eitel, Roberts Audio & Video
Still in the world of user interfaces yet at the top end of the spectrum is the Crestron TPMC8X, the choice of Robert Eitel of Roberts Audio & Video in Los Angeles. One of the most successful high-end installers in the country, Roberts has long been known as the installer to the stars. So in addition to his clients being wealthy, they can also be quite demanding especially when it comes to technology in their homes.

Crestron’s TPMC8X touchpanelEitel offered up the Crestron TPMC8X touchpanel, which can be used free-standing, floating, or built in. He described it as, a very important product for my business because my clients love it. So almost every one of my projects has at least two, sometimes more. For my installers, the TPMC8X is easy to program and versatile so it works with everything. For my clients, they find it super easy to use so they enjoy having them in their kitchen, home theater, master bedroom, and home office.

Eitel described the design of the Crestron touchpanel as beautiful and said that there is never a problem placing them in multi-million dollar homes. Architects are the pickiest people in the world and even they dont have a problem with it, he added.

David King, King Systems

David King, King SystemsFlat-panel video displays continue to be a red-hot category, but proper mounting can be tricky, especially in producing an aesthetically pleasing result. David King of King Systems in Denver, Colorado, sings the praises of the Peerless IM760, an in-wall mounting solution that delivers a virtually no-profile look while allowing the option of articulating functionality all in one easy-to-use and install mount.

Supporting his choice of the Peerless IM760, King stated, This product solves many problems in the field with articulating wall mount installations. So many people want the functionality of these mounts but they do not want the negative aesthetic property normally associated with installing an articulating mount. The IM760 also solves the problem normally associated with recessed articulating wall mounts in that they do not fit in a normal 16-inch stud bay.

The new Peerless articulating, recessed wall mount, is designed to be field installed, between 16-inch stud bays, without the need to consult a structural engineer, tear down studs, or involve a dry wall contractor as long as you make the proper cuts in the wall.

Thad Forrester, Forrester Tech
Surprisingly, the only speaker in this round-up was Artcoustic and that was chosen by Thad Forrester of Forrester Tech in Springfield, Missouri. Forrester appreciates Artcoustic for its audiophile quality sound in a slim, aesthetically pleasing enclosure. The speaker allows dealers to incorporate high-quality audio into almost any environment regardless of aesthetic or design concerns.

Forrester noted that Artcoustics custom art options allow endless possibilities for integrating the speakers into any space. The unique design really reflects the personality and taste of the customers with all their custom options, with

The Sooloos Systemeach having one thing in commona love for superb sound, he said. Artcoustic allows us to show our customers that we are not only committed to providing them with the best quality listening experience possible, but equally as important, we are committed to seeing their aesthetic vision for the space fully realized.

For these dealers, industrial design is clearly a major factor in their decision making on which brands and products to support. Their reasons and preferences vary and they recognize that outstanding design is a combination of many things that can have different values to different people. One thing they agree on: great design is a blueprint for success.

To view all of the Resi Award nominees, visit our photo gallery.

Peter Hoagland is an industry marketing consultant based in Warrenton, Virginia.