Two and a half years ago, GE tripled their investment in resources and staff for their design team in an effort to create fresh, innovative products that resonate with their consumers.
Last year, the appliance-maker launched a new “slate” finish, a darker, more “fashion-forward” alternative to stainless steel and it sold like gangbusters.
This morning at Monogram Hall at the GE Appliance Park on Buechel Bank Rd, GE introduced its Artistry Series, which they’re calling “the first line of appliances designed for Millenials by a Millenial.”
The series will be on sale at places like Lowes, Home Depot and Sears starting this September.
Industrial designer Tomas DeLuna, from Detroit, led the development team for the Artistry Series. DeLuna, who is based out of GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville, served in GE’s internship program in 2009-2010.
He must have made an impact during that program, he says, because when he finished school in 2010, a designer from GE called him and offered him a job.
“This is my first job out of school,” DeLuna explained.
There are currently more than 300 summer interns working on GE’s campus, says Julie Wood, manager of Appliances Public Relations.
When he was a kid living in Detroit, DeLuna was obsessed with car magazines and used to draw cars that he’d like to see. So he’s been designing from a very young age.
DeLuna imagines the target market for the Artistry Series as a “young couple who’s just bought their first home.”
He says that the design team looked at brands like Target, IKEA and Volkswagen to see how they achieve affordable, sophisticated design.
The team concluded that these brand focus on the “touch points”– “simple, clean and stressing where the consumer interacts with their products.”
One seemingly-counterintuitive decision they made for these Millenial-driven products was removing digital controls from all but the over-the-range microwave. This shift from digital function to analog is both familiar and modern.
The analog clock on the range, DeLuna said, immediately “made people smile.” He say that it’s “thoughtfully different” design, which is something that Millenials value.
Eddie Martin, GE’s chief of marketing, says that the Artistry Series has some “game-changing features,” including the fact that the appliances are “drop-dead gorgeous” with a “different, fresh look” but are still very affordable.
The entire suite– bottom-load freezer and refrigerator, gas or electric range, dishwasher and over-the-range microwave– runs around $2400 total.
Martin said that while there are a ton of options for appliances for mid-market consumers and up, in the mid-market and down there are not as many. “There’s opportunity here.”
There are 60 million Millenials, 60 percent of whom are in the work place and almost a third of whom are parents.
GE has a high level of brand loyalty, so this is also an effort to start to earn that loyalty earlier.
Lou Lenzi, director of GE’s Industrial Design Operation, said “We focus on value with these products. But that doesn’t mean we skimped on durability or reliability.”
Only the dishwasher will be made at the GE Appliance Park in Louisville. The range and refrigerator will be made in Mexico. The microwave will be made in Asia. “If we decide to add a top freezer to the appliance line, it will be made in Decatur [AL],” explained Martin.