Every year consumers in 150 countries around the world buy more than 55 million Electrolux products. Globally the Electrolux Group now owns many famous brands such as AEG, Zanussi, Frigidaire, Eureka, Flymo and Husqvarna.

Electrolux employs approximately 150 designers and during the last ten years has expanded its design offices into new locations outside Europe and the USA to better understand and cater to local design needs. 

Lars Erikson has been Electrolux’s Director of Industrial Design based in Riverwood, Sydney, since August 2001 and is now working to establish a new design centre.

Before heading the Australian design team, Erikson set up three new Electrolux design offices in Singapore, India and China. 

Plans are underway to launch the ‘Electrolux Design and Innovation Centre’ in March next year at an exclusive site in Sydney. “Hopefully near the water” said Erikson.

“I see a great future for design at Electrolux in Australia. With the new design centre we hope to expand the function of design and explore new ways of connecting with our customers and consumers. 

“I also see that this creative centre will allow our designers to share insights with other experts from the world of fashion, commercial arts, advertising, furniture design etc. Erikson believes that “Change is good for creativity”. 

“A key target for me is to create such an exciting studio that it will attract the best designers in Australia to want to come and work for us. Fresh minds bring new innovations.

“To date, Electrolux Design has supported its Australian brands with ‘brand styling’, but this will be changing and our designers will be able to work more conceptually. They will hopefully soon be designing new products for the individual lifestyles of Australians.”

In Australia the Electrolux brand portfolio includes our biggest home appliance brands – Westinghouse, Simpson, Kelvinator, Hoover, Chef and Dishlex and just recently a fully imported range has been launched under the name ‘Electrolux Gallery’.

Erikson says the group is now working on building awareness of the Electrolux brand.

“A lot of people in Australia don’t know that Electrolux is in the appliance business, they still think that we just make vacuum cleaners.”

A focus of the new centre and the contribution of Australian designers will be to explore new concepts for home appliances .

“It is essential that we take the next step and push our conceptual work. Our products are still the same old boxes as before and we need to be more innovative to be able to succeed in the future.” 

To illustrate this innovative approach Erikson highlights examples of the conceptual work developed in the late 90s by designers in Sweden. These include the ‘Attitude Kitchen Concept’ for apartment living, the ‘Kitchen Sink Dishwasher’, designed for the micro-kitchen ‘for people who will never buy a conventional dishwasher’, and the ‘Lighthouse Refrigerator Concept’. 

Erikson admits this work is very experimental and was purely based on designers being given ultimate freedom to explore what they thought could be possible with kitchen and laundry appliances. “This shows how serious Electrolux is about design. Even if
the consumers take their appliances for granted, we never will.”

He says the examples show how Electrolux is expanding the concept of appliances and re-thinking the way the consumer relates to and uses appliances, looking at new technologies, form, materials and colour.

Research and development is a new direction more focussed on the needs of particular markets and is backed by technical knowledge and experience.

“To get the new direction for Electrolux, we have to have the best creative people, both industrial designers and technically competent people who can drive the innovation side of the research and development process as well as new product concepts.”

The plan is to find these creative and technical people in Australia, according to Erikson. The Electrolux design team already has nine industrial designers and one graphic designer. This is expected to grow to fifteen.

“This is an Australian company, we have manufacturing in Australia of products developed for Australian conditions. So of course they should be designed by Australians “

In a statement from Hans Straberg the global CEO of Electrolux, the scene is set for the future of research and development for Electrolux worldwide. 

Straberg says, “Electrolux sees product development as a ‘core process’ with innovation as the key. This is the difference between creating ‘superior value and competing on price alone.’

“We will not innovate for the sake of innovation.  Electrolux will focus on the development of innovations that solve very clearly defined problems – developing products and services with innovative features and functions aimed at ‘making life easier’. Electrolux is also working towards increasing the speed at which they get their products to market.”

Erikson sees design innovation in three levels. The first is defined as – ‘Design Innovation’ which as an example can involve the ‘dressing up’ or styling of a present ‘technical platform product’, sometimes using new technology.

The ALU refrigerator launched in Sydney in October 2002, with changeable front panels illustrates this innovation level. 

‘Product Design Innovation’ is the second level, which involves the creation of a new product using existing technology but new manufacturing platforms. For example, the OZ fridge is a break away from the traditional box form to a curvaceous organic stand-alone product.

‘Product Concept Design innovation’ is the third level. Here, new products for the future are conceptualised incorporating new technology and new manufacturing processes. An example is the ‘Trilobite’ the world’s first automatic vacuum cleaner that navigates by ultra-sound.

“The ambition for the new Design & Innovation Centre is to bring Innovation into our products at all these levels. An innovative design doesn’t have to be a totally new concept for the whole product, it could be a clever can holder in the fridge or a smart interface on a washing machine.

"Hopefully this will happen more in an exciting new creative environment which we hope to achieve in our new design studio.”

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