By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Electrolux is looking to the past as it prepares for the future.
Reaching back some 46 years, the major appliance manufacturer has begun to phase in a new version of its Frigidaire brand's classic "script logo." At the same time, the Swedish conglomerate has developed a new category of home appliance specifically designed for the Internet age.
The retro logo, to be phased in with all new Frigidaire and Frigidaire Gallery appliance introductions, was recreated after research indicated that consumers associated the original circa-1955 design with quality.
The current version features the word "Frigidaire" in upper case block letters that are topped with a teal "crown."
"This change to the script is really a product change," said Rick Weiss, chief of design in the Electrolux Home Products Design Center in Anderson, S.C. "It doesn't identify the company because the company is Electrolux Home Products, and Frigidaire is a brand within that. We're re-identifying products themselves in this new manner, which is really the old manner."
In creating the logo, designers went to publications of the time and found that nearly all Frigidaire refrigerators, dishwashers and ranges in 1955 carried the script marquee. They started with that basic design and made a few subtle changes, Weiss said.
He said people have been responding favorably to the new logo. "People took a lot of pleasure seeing these brand-new appliances tagged with this more familiar and friendlier script format," he said, comparing the company's move to Chrysler's success with its 1950s-inspired PT Cruiser.
While Frigidaire is embracing its past, Electrolux is facing the future with a new home appliance designed to augment the Internet age.
Its new Unattended Delivery Unit (UDU) is designed to stand outside a house or apartment and receive deliveries from e-tailers, grocers or other sources when no one is home. The unit is a secure container with three termperature-controlled compartments that can chill foods, freeze foods or keep items at an ambient temperature. The compartments can hold the equivalent of upwards of nine full grocery bags.
To maintain security, the UDU owner creates a one-time code that is provided to the retailer when placing an order, and which is used to open the UDU upon delivery. The UDU's management system keeps a complete record of all activity so the owner knows what has been delivered, who delivered it and when.
The company has also begun field tests of its new LiveIn system, which allows users to manage all household appliances from a single point in the kitchen. The interface is a flat, liquid crystal video display unit that is designed to swing down from under a cupboard and is controlled by a simple remote control device.
Developed under the company's European Rex brand, the system is being field tested by 50 Italian families over a period of months in a joint project with Italian kitchen supplier Snaidero. The products controlled by the device are standard majaps that have been modified with a low-cost communications unit.
One key function of LiveIn is Power management. LiveIn can identify and select the most power-efficient and cost-efficient combinations of appliances to run at any one time.
Just as Electrolux launched its latest field test, it ended an earlier one. Last December, the company began its first long-term field trials of its Internet-enabled Screenfridge refrigerators. The result: the 50 Danish families who participated found that the "smart" appliance morphed into a popular combination of breakfast table, newspaper and meeting center.
Indeed, instead of merely offering cooking tips and facilitating e-shopping, as first envisioned, the unit evolved into a family meeting point where parents checked the morning traffic and listened to the morning news, and kids left computerized Post-it messages. But now that the test is over, Electrolux says its Screenfridges will be sorely missed. Reported one of the participants, "It's like they're taking away an old friend."
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