Industrial Design, Busness Model Design And Design For Change
by Idris Mootee
I was chatting with some members of our design research team just yesterday next to the cooler the other day. We were talking about how the iPhone is such a bad phone and a great media player, and the Backberry is such a great email gadget but a terrible browser. The conclusion was that phones were not designed to handle the ‘social’ functions and so they are just add-ons. What does a true ‘social’ gadget looks like? I will ask our design team to come up with some crazy ideas and I’m sure our clients will love to see them.
As more and more people use Twitter or Facebook as their core communications vehicle, what are the best gadgets designed for that? Is there a gadget that lets them tweet, reply, retweet, send direct messages, and connect with followers easily?
Here comes the Twitter Peek which sells for $99 or $199 (with service plan). But, users can also view TwitPics by clicking the “view content” option from the Twitter Peek menu. If users choose to pay $99 at the time of purchase, they will get the Twitter Peek device and six months of Peek service. After that, they need to pay $7.95 per month for network access. If customers plunk down $199, they’ll get the device and service for the life of the product. In either case, Twitter Peek allows for unlimited tweeting. It has one key limitation – it can only support one account at a time.
An important industrial design discipline that they teach in school – Do we design something for a singular or more important function or something that does everything?
The preference is to design something with a purpose in mind. Is the Twitter Peek really necessary in the marketplace? Or do we need a Facebook device?
The deep satisfaction of design is when you find an elegant solution to a problem that has, until now, had a hindering effect on our quality of life (or experience or environment). The function should be super obvious – a straightforward solution to a meaningful problem. But, it is not that simple.
Industrial design is understood to be a part of engineering design, or as running parallel to engineering design (and increasingly interface design). However, when industrial design activity is engaged in the more aesthetic or style concerns of a product, it can be understood as running parallel with marketing and brand activity. And when industrial design is engaged and running parallel with business strategy activity, it becomes a very different game.
There is not a right or wrong or simple answer here, there is a lot of room for ambiguity and misunderstanding and many designers are confused about design themselves.
Many designers love to talk business model design, but I’m not sure how many are qualified to discuss this subject. My experience is that even among MBAs that I have hired, anyone with less than ten years of solid experience doesn’t understand the real implications of these business model discussions.
My response to them is:
“How exactly do you change a business model without understanding the industrial and distribution economics and the individual players’ competitive dynamics? There is always game theory at play in these moves.”
One interesting thought is that traditional industrial designers came into being as mass production raised output and producers wanted to match market demand. This is still true, but not entirely the case. If industrial design comes within a marketing function and marketers buy the creative services of an industrial design consultant on an occasional basis for a special project, this is quite different than if industrial design is a part of the manufacturing function. And if industrial design comes within a strategy firm and executives buy the innovative services of a firm that has strategy + design capabilities (like Idea Couture), then it is part of the corporate strategy undertaking. That’s design thinking in action, not design talking. Am I confusing you?
Idris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.