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Bent Out of Shape

The award-winning look for new product design is the curve--and it's being put to well-rounded uses.

June 10, 1997|CONNIE KOENENN | Times Staff Writer

Out with the straight-edge. Rounded shapes, gentle forms, curves of all sorts are design watchwords these days, even in the humblest of products.

The curvilinear theme was illustrated in the annual awards of the Industrial Designers Society of America, which saluted "a new era for design" in picking the best home and office products of 1997. Jurors selected 142 gold, silver and bronze winners from almost 1,000 international entries. The winners, in a competition co-sponsored by Business Week magazine, will be honored June 28 at the National Press Club in Washington as part of the society's national conference.

Jurors applauded a growing emphasis on aesthetic values even in the most mundane categories. Typical was the blossoming in consumer products of square-edged objects to rounded lines, allowing the most mundane products to offer an aesthetic grace.

For example, the jurors saluted: An elegantly designed upscale toaster that combines a window for watching bread toast and a microchip to control the heat; a line of modular ceramic heaters, with adjustable or oscillating components, with graceful lines designed to complement any room. Also cited were a clothes hanger with a center bar that holds up to four pairs of slacks and top ellipse for ties and scarves guaranteed to get any messy closet organized.

"I think you could call it the new lyricism," said consumer product juror Katherine McCoy. "There's a sort of poetry beginning to show up that dovetails functional considerations with aesthetics." The biomorphic look can be misapplied, she added--"curves can't be stacked"--but objects that stand alone can take on a new sensibility with rounded lines.

Sometimes the enhancement is realistic, such as the Presario's computer, tilted for better access and air ventilation. Or it may be more ritualistic, she said, citing the Shaker-like beauty and simplicity of a baby's cradle with a body that can be lifted from the platform and placed on the floor for gentle rocking.

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