Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Emerging Trends in Product Design

Product designing is closely related to the consumers psyche. It is said that a product design is truly successful when the consumer gets emotionally attached to the product. So how does a designer answer this very important question? “What does the consumer want?” It could be lower prices, an ergonomic design, superior functionality or ease of use. All these are very abstract terms and there never really is one simple answer to that question. The answers differ from product to product.

How a product designing company fits all these requirements into their organisational operations to maximise demands and profits is the study of this weeks case studies and reading materials. Again, there is no single straightforward answer to this question as well. While Ikea likes to start with deciding a price point and selecting a manufacturer and work its way towards manufacturing and shipping the product, other companies may follow a different strategy altogether. What works for one company may not necessarily work for another.

The larger trend, however, has been towards modular designs and giving the customers a greater creative power. Consider the example of software. Traditionally, software has been created to be rigid and made to serve only very specific purposes. Companies used to decide for the consumers and in many cases the end users had no choice but to buy a product for lack of an alternative. This is however changing with the advent of open source software and crowd funding initiatives. The customer is the ‘King’. Companies are figuring out ways to bring the design of the end product closer to the consumer. The idea behind this is very simple. If the end user designs the product, he will use it. Another very good example of this is the modular phone. It allows the user to decide the functionality/specifications he needs and gets rid of all the unnecessary overhead. Why pay for something that you don’t need?

Taking the idea of consumer design to the extreme is a 3d printer. If the end user designs and manufactures the product, he is sure to use it. We have already seen through the various case studies how the company philosophy towards designing and manufacturing a product affects its supply chain. But what happens when you take the design and manufacturing away from an organisation. Though this does not seem likely in the very near future, it has thrown up some very important questions. How will this new technology of 3d printing affect the traditional principles of supply chain management? Will there even be a supply chain to manage or will it be restricted to the supply of raw materials to end users who turn them into finished products.

Images courtesy: 

Article: How Ikea Designs Its Sexy Price Tags (Business 2.0, October 2002);

Article: Learning From Tata’s Nano (Hagel and Brown, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, February 27, 2008); www.businessweek.com/stories/2008-02-27/learning-from-tatas-nanobusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

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