Furniture Meets the Digital Age
For many people, computers have all but eliminated the need for paper file storage. The Dyvel Table by Silva/Bradshaw does away with drawers altogether. More Photos »
PHILIPPE STARCK was in town last week, ostensibly to introduce the Zik wireless headphones he designed for the French company Parrot. But Mr. Starck, who had just flown in from Paris, seemed more interested in holding forth on the future of design.
“What’s the future of design?” he asked rhetorically. “There is no future. When the product becomes bionic, in the end there is no product.”
The digital age, Mr. Starck said, has created a process of “dematerialization,” in which products like the Zik headphones are simultaneously shrinking and becoming smarter. “It’s the elegance of the minimum,” he said.
The end result? Eventually, he announced, we’ll all be implanted with microchips, and we’ll be the product.
Of course, that could take a while. As technology rapidly remakes most parts of our lives, the furniture industry remains largely slow-moving and low-tech. For many retailers, midcentury furniture designed 60 years ago still qualifies as “modern.”
Even so, in recent years a number of furniture designers have been struggling to adapt — in ways big and small, subtle and not so subtle — to new forms of technology and the proliferation of devices like the iPad, e-readers and ever-thinner flat-screen TVs.
In a way, they have no choice.
“The rate of technological change has gotten so fast that we need to inform the design to reflect it,” said Ryan Anderson, director of future technology for Herman Miller.