It was the time of the year and the obligatory visit to the largest trade show for consumer electronics was on schedule. Since many years I pay a visit to this temple of electronic gadgets, and along with me many colleagues and former colleagues in design. And every year the leaders in the industry, and those who want to push the big ones from their throne, meet up to showcase the world what they are capable of, and in how far they are better than the competition.


Over all those years there is one product that takes the centre stage, not only at the show: the television.

For us designers there is always something we can improve, even on televisions: though they have become essentially flat. In the past, when they were still bulky and heavy, the main job of the designer was to make the tele look competent, technical jet dynamic, but anything like a blob of plastic. Up to you to decide if we achieved anything good.

With the arrival of the flat panel this effort was reduced to the mere nothing: flat, slim, light, invisible are the descriptions of the new design-lines put on show, with which the consumer lesser and lesser just watches tele, but is being entertained, browsed through the internet and is being provided with “apps”! The product itself is dematerializing more and more and focusses on the screen only… this was more or less the explanation I got from a tele-designer I met.

And then I met it (or her, or him?), by chance and totally unexpected, because it was carefully tucked away, or it was just left out everywhere – the remote control!

The remote has become a rare guest on the booth: it seems that no manufacturer really takes care too much to give the part of tele, on which truly everything is focussed, a prominent place the show. Specifically now, where the flat and slim televisions hardly can provide space to place a decent button, the remote is more important than ever! And now, where we not any longer are zapping up and down the channels, but are connected to world wide web, we need the remote more than ever. But why were there no remotes on display?

Maybe there is simple reason, because show visitors with plastic bags tend to have sticky fingers and nick them, or they start to fiddle around with the fine tuning of the sets, and therefor the exhibitors leave them out? Or maybe brands are ashamed of the fact that with all the minimization effort, which was put in the set, they ran out of money when it came to minimizing the effort of the interaction between user and set? Or might it even be that they used the budget left to purchase one cheap at ‘oversees’, in order to toss it into the box just in time before the tele was packed up for shipment? “Honi soit qui mal y pense”.

Fact is that good looking, easy to use and qualitatively well build remotes were hard to find, and that mostly, upon request, they came out as grey, dull, button covered plastic blobs. Few exceptions.

What made me positive, was the obvious insight some manufactures displayed by offering the matching app to their flat telies, for free download. Also I rather display my iProduct on the couch table, then a blob of grey plastic! But, isn’t then the television mutating into an accessory for smartphones, which belong to the generation digital? What will happen to all those professional televiewers without the iProduct, like my aunty Gerda?

So therefore thy Television-makers: If there is hardly any material used on the sets you make, please free up the budget and put it in decent remotes – not only my aunty will be grateful!

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