Why I would never buy a Starck product
|April 26, 2012||Posted by Alaa Jasim under culture|
Not that I would ever be able to afford a Starck product, given the amount of debt I’ll be in after doing a degree, but that’s a whole different can of worms.
There is something about Starck’s simplistic, modern, and yet somehow extravagant designs that the world seems to love – but I really, really don’t. Yes, his products are pretty, but the first rule of design is that form follows function, and I just don’t think Starck has thought his products through. At least, not functionally first. As a design student I’d like to think I know a little bit about product design, and I just don’t think that Starck, in spite of his success and fame, designs good products.
So, what better place to start than with the Starck juicer? It’s beautiful, it’s pretty, it’s shiny, all that sort of thing, but does it work? No. Let’s take a step back here and look at the basic functions of a juicer. Just that ordinary, £3 juicer you can buy from Tesco. You can see it now: ugly, plastic, gaudy colours. But it works, and that’s what we’re getting at. The primary function of a juicer is to squeeze juice from fruit. That’s what it’s supposed to do. Think again about the cheap one from Tesco: at the bottom, there’s that little sieve to catch all the seeds and pulp and general unpleasantness that you don’t want to drink. Where is that on the Starck juicer? Can’t see one? No, me neither. Then the rounded top of the juicer doesn’t exactly help either; that’s a disaster waiting to happen. The Starck design I hate the most? Definitely the juicer. It’s just so bad.
Moving on, another design I’m not too fond of is Starck’s Lola Mundo chair. I can’t help but look at it and think, goodness gracious, that looks incredibly uncomfortable. Once again we have a gorgeous product that doesn’t quite work as well as it should. I’m not going to lie, I like the juxtaposition of the flatness of the seat and the curves of the chair legs, but you’re supposed to be able to sit on a chair and be comfortable. This particular chair doesn’t look like something you’d sit on and then feel well-rested. Beautiful, yes, functional, well, kind of. At a push. You can sit on it, and it’s undoubtedly safe, but honestly, if I was investing a decent amount of money in a chair then I’d go for a Barcelona chair by Bauhaus, or a Bertoia. So I’m not a huge fan of the Lola Mundo.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire Starck in an annoyed, begrudging way; he’s far more successful than I am ever likely to be, so he clearly knows how to play the game. But what are people paying for when they buy a Starck product? A name? Because the products themselves are often not that useful. Investing any money at all into a product is saying that you want the product to be useful. We don’t buy sofas or blenders because they’re pretty, we buy them because we need them. What we don’t need is a product that’s prettier than it is actually useful.
One of the first things I was taught when I started studying product design at sixth-form was that people are “more forgiving” of a product when it looks good. But that’s not good: if a product is bad quality, you shouldn’t be releasing it. James Dyson – yes, the vacuum cleaner guy – made thousands of prototypes before he released the Dyson vacuum cleaners, so he knew he was releasing a product that was the best it could possibly be. Although it’s pretty clear that not all designers are or can afford to be that way, it’s how design should be done, right? Not this Starck juicer, which in spite of being pretty is utterly useless. That’s not a product.
So why would I never buy a Starck design? Because they’re pretty, but not that great. That’s just how I see it. If you’re going to design it, make sure people are getting what they pay for – something worthwhile. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in a few years’ time, if I ever make it as a professional product designer, my products won’t take off and it’ll either be because I haven’t followed my own opinions or because Starck is right. I guess we’ll find out, but to me this simply isn’t design for function. These products don’t work to their full potential because Starck has spent too much time making them look “sexy” (his word, not mine), and not nearly enough time making them functional.