The below blog post is written by Joe Schapppler, CEO at our industrial design partner, Helix Design.
Throughout my 36 years working for various companies, from Fortune 500 to small start-ups, I’ve been involved in industrial design projects using a multitude of different development processes.
A process I’ve seen too often involves developing a product around its function in engineering, then pass along to the styling team to “make it pretty and presentable”. What matters is that it works, right? Form following function is the way to success… Or does this raise the question of whom it works for?
Helix Design was once brought in to evaluate a product that our client developed to solve a fraud problem happening in the long-haul trucking industry. The client clearly understood the problem and set about to solve this issue with a hardware/software solution packaged within a rectangular box with a display on the front. The technology was great and an effective solution to the issue, but…it wasn’t selling.
It turns out, while the technical solution was feasible and viable, the industrial design solution did not meet the desires of the end customer, the truck drivers. One driver pointed out that the cabin of his truck is as nice and upscale as any luxury sedan, and he wasn’t going to install an “ugly”, boring, outdated-looking box in the cabin where he spends much of his life.
So yes, at least in this case, industrial design mattered. We redesigned the packaging to be more contemporary and fit the intended environment, while also reducing cost and enhancing the interface for an improved user experience. By listening to the end customers and using their input, we were able to design a product that enhanced the driver’s experience and resolved the fraud issue.
Just because a product design is feasible, meaning the technology is available to implement, and viable, meaning the company has a solid business model to move forward with, does not mean it will be successful. This approach focuses too much on the company’s toolbox of technology and product planning, and too little on the needs of the actual customer and end user.
Through projects like these, we’ve learned that a better products development process starts with identifying the problem while developing solutions from engineering and design concurrently, with the customer included in the process. It may appear less tidy when compared to the linear approach of passing it step by step down the development assembly line, but it is more exploratory and iterative and yields results that can be the difference between high or low market acceptance.
I’d like to make the case that industrial design always makes a difference and can be one of the differentiators between success and failure in the marketplace. Industrial design targets the user experience and includes the customer in development when possible. When not practical, it must at least listen to customer feedback. While our engineering team is developing practical functional solutions or design team is developing wanted user solutions. The combination of these disciplines, working together, creates product successes and fulfilling user experiences.
To learn more about our comprehensive industrial design experience, visit www.helixdesign.com.
To learn how industrial design fits into the Resolution Development ecosystem, visit www.resolutiondev.com.