What Do World-Class Design and Profitability Have in Common? (continued)

Who made the decision to concentrate so much engineering and design effort on the door?  Who made the decision to concentrate effort on the handle and the blade, not just tweaking a centuries-old design?  In smaller companies, many of these decisions are not addressed by marketing and end up being shrugged off onto engineering.  The problem is that engineers are usually better at meeting specifications than prioritizing softer issues (such as look, feel and usability).  In larger companies, the bridge between marketing and engineering often comes in the form of an industrial design group.  In smaller companies the industrial design portion of the development process is often neglected.  The result is often products that are specification-centric instead of user-centric.

As demonstrated by the Oxo knives, user-centric products aren’t limited to high-end luxury products.  User-centric products tend to build loyal customer bases and repeat sales.  The key element in developing a user-centric product is to insert the task of industrial design into your design and development process.  Industrial designers take into account the various issues of function, form, available technology, manufacturing cost and users to synthesize a design.  The external appearance is only a small part of the industrial design process.  This is also the part of the design process where the vast majority of the product innovation occurs.  By looking at the product wholistically, the design team gets a glimpse of the entire life cycle of the product.  This is a step in the design process that has a tremendous amount of impact on the economical manufacturability of the product and the success of the product in the marketplace.  A well-executed initial product concept leads to drastically improved manufacturability and usability.

Today’s reality is that products are becoming more sophisticated.  Sophistication can come in many forms, such as advanced technology.  Sophistication can also come in the form of a more usable or more visually attractive design.  So even a technologically unsophisticated product can benefit from a more robust design process.  Making your products better and more successful may be easier than you think.  Investing in world-class design to ensure product profitability is key in a cautious economy.

Montie W. Roland is the President of Montie Design, a product development and industrial design firm headquartered in Morrisville, North Carolina.  Montie can be reached at 1-800-722-7987, www.montie.com, or montie@montie.com.