The Power of a Universal Design System for the Smart Kitchen

Anthony Sullivan, Chief Product Officer, and Marc Brophy, Product Manager at Fresco, discuss the importance of a universal design system and what Fresco has built to address home cooks' common challenges in the kitchen.

The kitchen is a central hub of activity in our homes — where we cook, eat, and socialize with loved ones. As smart technology continues to evolve, the kitchen is becoming increasingly innovative, offering remote control of appliances, voice-controlled guided recipes, and refrigerators that can automatically order groceries. Yet, despite these developments, the smart kitchen has been slower to catch on than other rooms in the smart home, creating a need for design improvements that make cooking more accessible and seamless for consumers.

Design problems in the kitchen


Consumers looking for appliances to speed up the cooking process and create delicious meals may find the current state needs improvement. While appliances are intended to make our lives easier, they have become increasingly challenging to navigate.

There are complex new features, each with new controls and terminology to understand. These appliances tend to ignore standard design conventions, making each interface a new puzzle to be deciphered.

Lastly, each brand, app and experience has its own unique interface, adding to the overall complexity.


Based on our research, it is uncommon to find users who remain loyal to a single brand when it comes to their kitchen appliances. Instead, most homeowners tend to have a variety of devices from different brands, which often operate independently and need interoperability.

The absence of shared standards among brands leads to an inconsistent user experience.

Your recipe app is unaware of the ingredients in your smart refrigerator and lacks knowledge about the functionalities of your smart oven. Similarly, your smart oven is unaware of the ingredients in your smart fridge.

Only a few of these parts are currently linking up, and in the few cases where these scenarios may be possible, a user would require three different apps to get each piece talking to each other so that they can complete one task.

The Matter standard is set to support interoperability across the smart home and as a member of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, we see a future where Matter can complement the KitchenOS platform.


We at Fresco believe that all people should access, understand, and use the kitchen to the greatest extent possible, regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability.

Unfortunately, many appliance User Interfaces (UIs) do not meet basic accessibility standards. This can alienate large groups of users and lead to a reduced market size. It also can create a bad brand image, or worse yet, even result in future lawsuits like the National Federation of the Blind vs. Target one.

Solution: Fresco's KitchenOS

Our vision is to create a smart kitchen with seamlessly integrated appliances and apps under a single, familiar design language or system. Our choice of colors and fonts is utilitarian, meaning it is designed with practicality, functionality, and efficiency in mind. This approach directly addresses the issues highlighted above, allowing users to focus on the joys of cooking without the frustration of navigating disparate interfaces.

We apply our design system across all our partnerships, bringing each appliance brand into Fresco’s ecosystem. As more partners join the Fresco platform, home cooks will simply need one Fresco account to connect and control any of their smart appliances. Through this universal Fresco experience, home cooks will intuitively know how to control and monitor every appliance.

This unique aspect of working with Fresco offers significant benefits, including cost savings through improved efficiency in interface design for new appliances, reduced time spent in design meetings and reviews, and faster project deadlines.

A unified operating system in the kitchen also means that user testing and customer support are streamlined, as fixes and improvements can be applied to all products on the platform, benefiting all users. Fresco's approach helps everyone, creating a seamless and efficient kitchen experience that allows users to focus on what really matters: cooking.

Watch Anthony Sullivan discuss our approach here.

Building a design system for the kitchen

In 2022, we made a strategic decision to scale our KitchenOS platform and consumer experience. We partnered with Metalab to expedite building a seamless user experience to sit on top of KitchenOS.

When we set out to create a design system for the kitchen, we knew we needed to think beyond just mobile devices.

While the majority of our current consumer experience is delivered through mobile apps, our larger vision at Fresco is to be present everywhere - meaning our experience needs to scale to wherever users engage with their recipes and appliances. This could include mobile phones, embedded UI, ovens with digital interfaces and screens, wearables to monitor cooking progress, and even voice interfaces.

Design Principles:

Make it simple

First, we don't overwhelm users with too many UI elements or choices. This just slows them down in the cooking process.  We give users the correct information at the right time so we can empower them to save time while creating a delicious outcome.

We also use proven approaches and components that already exist. Users will expect a touchscreen interface to operate similarly to their mobile devices, as these are their main frames of reference for such devices.

This means less time spent onboarding. Also, it will make the cooking process feel more accessible and more seamless with the product. Moreover, there will be fewer usability issues, less negative user feedback, and fewer customer support tickets.

Benefits of making it simple

  • Users can focus on cooking rather than learning the interface controls.
  • Fewer usability issues and negative feedback.
  • Less time is spent fixing these issues.

Make it beautiful

We at Fresco pride ourselves on great design. Products should be functional in helping users achieve their tasks and be a delight to use.

This can be done in numerous ways, such as consistency with color, text, shape, and icon usage. This is vital as it creates a sense of order and helps users learn what each element means faster. This consistency also applies to groupings of information and sizing of elements.

Next is making it beautiful by introducing moments of delight through success states when a user has achieved something, using illustrations in empty states when nothing is being shown on the screen, or animations that make interactions with an interface feel fluid.

Benefits of making it beautiful

  • Better user satisfaction.
  • More likely to be brand-loyal customers and make repeat purchases.
  • Will promote the product to other users (Good NPS).

Make it inclusive

An environment (or product) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement for the benefit of only a minority of the population. On the contrary, it is a fundamental condition of good design.

At Fresco, we ensure all interfaces meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
There are three ratings. An A rating is the minimum requirement for having an accessible site, and AAA is the gold standard of accessibility. We aim to have a minimum AA rating for all UI elements. This will improve accessibility for all users, whether visually impaired or not.

We also ensure that the UI is available using text-to-speech for apps. Providing audio and haptic feedback as well can further reinforce interactions for those who are impaired.

Benefits of making it inclusive

  • The product becomes easier to use for everyone.
  • Avoid future lawsuits due to new legislation being introduced.
  • Avoid negative publicity.

Fresco is building the only cross-brand, smart kitchen platform. This means we can address the problems of many different experiences by bringing appliance manufacturers into one ecosystem and delivering a familiar design language that can be applied across all appliances and apps. If you want to learn more about Fresco's smart kitchen solutions and KitchenOS platform, get in touch using the button below

Anthony Sullivan
Anthony Sullivan
Marc Brophy
Marc Brophy
Anthony Sullivan (Chief Product Officer ), Marc Brophy (Product Manager)