Allison Arieff Returns to NYT ‘By Design’

arieff.jpgAfter a year-long hiatus, former Dwell editor-in-chief, current IDEO senior content lead, and perpetual Airstream aficionado Allison Arieff is back to blogging for The New York Times, and, given the demise of TimesSelect, her musings are no longer for subscribing eyes only.

In the first of what will be monthly design dispatches, she takes on the problem of function glut. Case in point: Whirlpool’s new dual-door stainless steel fridge, which comes complete with an ipod docking station.

I enjoy listening to music in the kitchen as much as anyone–and this advance is a giant leap forward compared to some of the things I’ve witnessed in this realm, like an oven that could be turned on and off from the backyard–but what additional innovations might Whirlpool and others consider? How about even greater energy efficiency? Energy Star appliance ratings are significant…yet they seem static at this point. Is there nothing else that might be done here that might supersede a refrigerator with a playlist? Could a refrigerator be designed to last longer? Could fewer materials or a smaller carbon footprint be used in manufacturing it?

To Arieff’s credit, she doesn’t turn the post into a list of function-stuffed products (so tempting, in our age of USB robot snowmen) but notes the move to address the questions she poses, whether through electronics recycling initatives, conferences such as the imminent Greener Gadgets confab, and consumers who push for practical product reimagining. She also gives a shout-out to The Designers Accord, a “sort of voluntary Kyoto Treaty for design and innovation firms focused on working together to create positive environmental and social impact.” Among the plans of the recently launched project, founded by IDEO’s Valerie Casey, is the creation of a wiki-style database of green products and services. And according to Arieff, AIGA and IDSA (the country’s two largest design organizations) will formally announce their endorsement of The Designers Accord later this week.