By Jura Koncius
The Washington Post
— Millennials, the generation that grew up on ramen noodles and Vitaminwater, now have a major appliance line designed for them by a fellow millennial. On June 26, GE released photos and tweeted links to its new Artistry series of five affordably priced kitchen appliances created by Tomas DeLuna, a 27-year-old GE industrial designer.
"We looked at the demographic data and found there was a great opportunity to create a line of products to appeal to this untapped market," DeLuna says. "I sketched the refrigerator on a napkin about 18 months ago." Still a renter, the newlywed says he is looking forward to homeownership, and to buying the Artistry model as his first fridge.
The products are targeted toward first-time millennial home buyers, some of the 80 million Americans born after 1980 who are now investing in real estate. GE hopes that Artistry's design, price and energy efficiency will click with the sensibilities of younger consumers.
"This is a really smart introduction by GE because the 24- to 34-years are starting to nest," says Jeff Fromm, co-author of just-published book "Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever." "Millennials also love to be involved with co-creating a product, so it was brilliant to [have] one of their own design it."
Fromm says research shows that millennials have $200 billion worth of buying power and roughly 21 percent of the consumer discretionary dollars. He says efforts by companies such as GE, Ford and Live Nation Entertainment to connect with millennials and their spending trends represent just the beginning of how this generation will influence product design.
The Artistry bottom-freezer refrigerator, gas range, electric range, dishwasher and over-the-range microwave have clean lines and basic features. "If you put yourself into the mind of a consumer buying their first home, most don't have a budget to redo all the cabinetry, but they want nice appliances with simple features," DeLuna says. "These products are meant to be very affordable."
DeLuna says GE made them available in only a white or black gloss finish to keep prices down. The brushed stainless knobs and handles have distinctive shapes, including horizontal handles on the fridge. The stove has old-fashioned analog clock instead of a digital one to provide a simple focal point, because the oven controls in this model were moved to the front. The GE logo has a bit of a retro feel.
The Artistry appliances will be available in September, according to a GE spokeswoman. The estimated retail prices: refrigerator $1,099; dishwasher $499; microwave $219; gas or electric range $599. The dishwasher and refrigerator are Energy Star-qualified. No washer or dryer is planned for the series, DeLuna says. But then, millennials are known for bringing their laundry to their parents' house.