Design in 2022 – what will product design look like?


As part of our Design in 2022 series, Weiwei He, Director China at Tangerine, offers her take on what could happen in product design over the next year.

What do you think 2022 holds for product design?

Product design has changed dramatically over my career and the 30+ years since Tangerine was founded. During the pandemic, we have seen an acceleration in the blurring of boundaries between online and offline experiences, products and services, and retailers and manufacturers; the tangible morphing with the intangible seamlessly.

It used to be that the mobility industry was all about making the “smart car” an extension of your “smart phone”. Today, the dominant theme is ‘mobility as a service’ (MaaS), with vehicles themselves being intelligent entities – a third place between your home and your work that supports your lifestyle. Mobility today is about designing flexible and adaptable spaces that connect to support services that interact with you and the vehicle, such as groceries delivered directly to the trunk of your electric vehicle while you’re away.

As the distinction between product and service disappears with the environmental sensitivity to “owning less”, we are seeing an increase in subscription and sharing models. This gives rise to shared rental services and community solutions, such as charging your electric car from a neighbor’s charging station for a nominal fee. Electric vehicle supplier NIO allows customers to replace their electric car battery with a more powerful battery when traveling long distances.

Companies traditionally known as OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) or popular brands are increasingly making smarter use of customer data to create more holistic services. Chinese appliance maker Haier sells washing machines and refrigerators marketed as “clothes managers” and “kitchen helpers”. These products make automated adjustments based on user behavior, learning about your food and clothing to provide insightful recommendations, and extending service options to include refill deliveries and other bookable services to broaden the customer experience. These changes are moving Haier’s business away from selling products as a single category purchase to becoming a brand providing products as a service (PaaS), extending their relevance to everyday life.

Rather than viewing the product as a simple click and distinguishing between physical product and digital product, in 2022 companies need to create unified brand experiences that support our lives.

What is your favorite product design example of 2021 and why?

The Oura ring caught my eye this year. Our creative director Dan Flashman showed up at the Tangerine studio one day wearing one. What appeals to me is the beautiful simplicity of the design of the ring as an understated piece of jewelry, while inside it smartly packs all sorts of useful smart tracking features.

The trend in wearable device design has been to move towards an unobtrusive, passive and less intrusive appearance, while providing richer data that is communicated to you when you seek information through an associated app. It’s quietly unique.

What do you think 2022 holds for product design? Let us know in the comments below…


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