The Rise In Circular Displays

Louise Smyth

There’s an ongoing trend in the market towards circular displays and many engineers are curious to explore this as a product design option. Mike Logan explains why the circular display is 360° of style and substance

So, let’s start off with the basics: what is a circular display? Quite simply, circular displays are a varying shape/form factor that suppliers are adding to their portfolio to offer customers choice and help differentiate their product design. 

In the past, to achieve the appearance of a circular display, by far the most cost-effective way to achieve this was using a rectangular display with a circular bezel placed over the top, to give the appearance of a perfect circular display. This solution worked, but as demand grew and grew for a true circular edge-to-edge display, the market catered for this need direct by manufacturing the circular display.

Circular displays from Anders are manufactured using the exact same design and engineering techniques that the firm has created for its standard rectangular displays and offer the same level of high-end specification and product configuration. It’s quite simply, a shape shift.

Why would someone select a circular display?

We are almost ‘going around in circles’ in product design, but the shape has obviously always existed. Let’s look at the automotive industry over the past 60 years. The Morris Mini Cooper with its iconic circular designed headlights and dials was first introduced in 1959 and reintroduced to the market in the early 2000s along with the re-invented Fiat 500. The driving factor behind this was our generation’s thirst for retro design.  That nostalgic desire still exists today and at the heart of that, within these vehicles is the dashboard and those iconic circular gauges and dials. The OEMs, the brand names, the logos, are all aware of this, so it was only a matter of time before we took the natural leap from mechanical circular dials into digital circular displays with touch and interactive technology.

Where will we see circular displays?

Anders is seeing strong demand from the automotive industry for the reasons aforementioned. The OEMs here are switching out their manual, or mechanical buttons and knobs to future-proof their brands as we move toward towards the dashboard of the future. This will be entirely interactive, sleek and stylish. 

In the same vein, motorbike manufacturers are demanding circular displays, to replace the classic instrument cluster on a motorbike that has generally been circular in design.

Designers are looking to replace these mechanical gauges with circular TFT displays that are not only impressive, but also robust. These displays don’t have the benefit of being kept safe, dry and warm, enclosed within a car surround, therefore when Anders is to consult on this type of project, it must take into account temperatures, from the extreme cold to the extreme heat, rainwater, and readability in direct sunlight.

How Smart Devices Are Driving The Change

The smart home, the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices are a major driving force and have led to an explosion of customers coming to Anders to learn how they can transition their product design from mechanical panels to displays. Some white goods manufacturers favour circular controls, and naturally, the OEM doesn’t necessarily want to deviate away from its original product design too much, but it wants to move with the trend towards the simplicity benefits that touchscreen technology and displays offer. Within the white good and general household appliance market, there is a natural product evolution to circular displays.

Smart meters and heating controls follow the same pattern. Like white goods, there is now a need for these functional products to not only be fit for function, but also to look good in the home environment. The smart OEM is the one that listens to its target market and designs its product to be aesthetically pleasing and aspirational.

And on the subject of aspirational, that’s where a product such as Amazon Echo comes in. Amazon has differentiated itself in the market by implementing a circular display. It has perfectly positioned the Echo as a must-have, ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ type of product through very clever, very stylish product design, but at the heart of it is the circular display.

There are a number of reasons for choosing circular displays, but the most common reasons that Anders is being asked to consult on circular displays is to help the OEM to: differentiate its brand via design; position its brand as a premium brand, to ensure it becomes a lifestyle choice; and to maintain the brand’s identity, equity and integrity (if a circular display has always been part of its product design, to future-proof consumer engagement it is switching out mechanical gauges and replacing them with circular displays).

Ultimately, the advice for product designer engineers considering this compelling trend is simply, ‘don’t be square, when you can have a circle display’.

Mike Logan is Displays and Input Technology manager at Anders


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