As the economy gears up to meet the challenge of ‘Made in China 2025’ the focus is on innovation and creativity as drivers within the ten areas of government supported industry.
In order for these industries to manufacture market ready products and services, support will be increasingly required if they are to compete with already established global brands.
This proposition intends to introduce a number of design led product development opportunities for businesses that are moving towards a value added and higher technology future.
Product development is one way of assisting this government objective and it provides a formula that can be applied to virtually all production and service provision. In doing so it teaches transferrable skills and processes thereby ensuring long term value to those who become skilled and experienced in its application.
Product development is essentially a tool for analysis and evaluation, research and manufacturing methods in association with all the fundamentals of materials, processes, marketing and management.
The strategy is linear, logical and simple, the elements are incorporated into the process in proportions that fit the project. In this way it is also possible for a participant to put emphasis on a particular strength and so create a more deeply skilled individual who may then work in a team formation with similarly skilled people of different strengths and so produce an executive Design Led Product Development group.
By describing this proposal as ‘design led product development’ (DLPD) the emphasis is on the innovation and creative aspects of the process. Thinking Design is an approach to all problem solving and it is this component which differentiates DLPD from a more generic form of product development and is I believe the future of product development. There are many examples of DLPD companies around the world and include: Samsung, Dyson, Porsche, Philips, Boeing, Sony, Bentley …..etc.
The linear process:
The elements in the application of a DLPD project are logical and linear, the elements are selected for each project on a case by case basis and not all will be necessary in every case. Also, as I have stated above, the proportion of each element varies with each project and may vary during the project as information is exposed and ‘needs and wants’ change.
Simply put, a linear description of DLPD is as follows:
Project identified, brief expanded and confirmed, all information gathered and evaluated, sorted into sections for later reference.
Research phase begins, precedent case, competition, existing products or services, new technology.
Market research looks closely at all aspects of similar products and starts the process of analysis leading to functional, user and material suitability leading to initial direction of differentiation.
Consumer research further evaluates the user experience and gathers knowledge related to emotional and ergonomic and functional aspects of competitive products.
Materials and technological research collects relevant knowledge related to cost, durability, user suitability, sustainablity etc
Design phase has been running throughout these research activities and begins to develop conceptual models utilizing all relevant information from the research and evaluation phases. Innovation is provoked in the designers as they begin to question ALL aspects of the project and integrate elements like cultural tendancies, social responsibility and humanistic preferences.
Further consumer research introduces design concepts to consumers for evaluation and refinement. Serial iterations are developed and similarly tested. All aspects of concepts are included as the process matures, materials, functional details, ergonomics, user interface, durability, maintenance, social issues.
Marketing has been evident in the development of concepts and would be heavily involved in consumer evaluations. Analysing market segment, price points, and distribution would further inform the concept development stage and confirmation of suitable model.
Detailed design development and engineering would work together to finalise manufacturing prototypes and these again would be tested through consumer and marketing evaluation meetings.
Final design confirmed, the product, or service, would be ready for manufacture or introduction and become the subject of more focused marketing activity which would have been developing throughout the design and research stages.
Methods of marketing, ‘fishing and farming’, or creating and maintaining a market along with knowledge of advertising technologies and media and consumer behavior should lead to a comprehensive understanding of how to launch the ‘product’.
Throughout the process, a management element guides the progress of the project and ensures compliance with all the objectives of the initial and developed briefing. Financial control, quality control, client relations and human resource control would ensure successful conclusions to the project
All projects will require a ‘plan’ of development and not all the above steps will be required for all projects. An experienced DLPD user will be able to select the relevant steps for each project as the conditions, context and objectives are confirmed with the client.
Bringing a product to the market involves, consumer research, market research, materials, product design and engineering, marketing, innovation, management and manufacturing processes these are the components of any product or service. The emphasis depends on the project and the objectives and experience of the individuals involved, but an introduction to ALL the elements of the process helps to establish standards that can be checked and replicated as the team matures. Essential to the implementation of successful DLPD is the management of the team.
A horizontal management structure allows all members to contribute to all elements of the process. In enlightened companies, the days of the only decisions being made by the boss have gone, favouring now a coordinated decision making process through ‘responsibility with authority’. A marketing person can inject knowledge and also emotion into a concept just as easily as a designer, an engineer may have insights to a research method etc. thus ensuring as broad a range of experience as possible contributing to the development.
The notion of DLPD is not unique but each group who establishes a DLPD facility interprets the approach slightly differently depending on the contextual circumstances surrounding it. It is this difference that illustrates the concept of design/thinking/design. It would indeed be counter to the notion of DLPD if a group simply copied another without applying the creative process and evaluation strategies necessary to differentiate their company from the competition and so demonstrate an innovative, design led product development ability.
This proposal is targeted towards any business that understands what the future of business in China, and the rest of the world, will demand in terms of quality, service, price, availability, delivery and social responsibility.
Thinking design as a methodology liberates the innovation in development teams and so encourages highly competitive solutions to projects of all types. It is a way of thinking not just a single solution and as such is future proofed to be used again and again in the development of products and services for the future.