Thursday, July 16, 2009

Collaborative Design - Is It Or Is It Not?

"To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master." Milton Glaser.

What better way should I start a posting about design and its influence on our lives/shopping/communication/emotions/ETC. than a quote about it. But ahhh, design has come so far. Remember when we could all purchase something designed by engineers for engineers? I mean, remember, well, remember the 80's? Whatever you had that didn't work well or was confusing, one possibility for its flaws stemmed from the lack of design. Below is a great graph from Smart Design about the concept of design being born as a strategy to help guide CEOs in an unsettled and turbulent era. It morphed into decoration, then usefulness and now--back into Design Strategy once again in a period of uncertainty.

Now, doesn't this inspire you to think back and to the future...? And what does this have to do with collaboration? EVERYTHING! Product Managers, Engineers, Customer Service Organizations and more need help from customers, thinkers, dreamers, users, executives to make the right product, DESIGNED for the best user.In a BusinessWeek article IDEO's CEO, Tim Brown, discusses why collaborative design is an effective strategy. Below, in just a few questions, you'll get the point!

Q: What are some of the big changes you see in the way innovative products are being developed?
For one, there's a big move to design platforms. Companies are establishing design themes that evolve but are not replaced each time a new product is developed. This enables them to bring new products to the market really fast by speeding up their development cycles.

Q: Why do companies need outsiders to help do this?
Even the largest manufacturers are having a hard time getting all the resources and decision-making structure lined up to get goods to market quickly enough. In order to innovate quickly, you need a richer set of ideas in the first place. You need a conscious realization that you can't only rely on your own abilities to generate enough ideas on your own.

That is one reason companies come to us. We work with 35 different industries. That means we can tap into 35 different ecosystems in the idea process.

Q: How are companies using consultancies like IDEO differently than before?
Companies used to come to companies like us mainly for engineering. These days we're working more collaboratively. We recently worked with a group of surgeons that had technology for a medical device, for example, but needed help designing how that technology would be used. We had designers watch doctors in a surgery room and observe how they held the instruments during procedures. Then one of the designers made a little model using materials that were lying around and said, "Should it look like this?"
It is through collaboration that the best product emerge!

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