Published on December 5th, 2019.
1. Industrial is not only what you might think
The purpose of industrial design is not only about designing industrial products. At least not anymore today.
For a long time, the role of industrial design has been to imagine and design the products of tomorrow to meet the certain law of supply and demand. Industrial designers, brands and industrialists have generated billions of tons of products over decades, answering this law.
"However, the key variable that we tend to forget, even as designers, is that the role played by design (industrial or not) is only the reflection of the times in which we live."
Today, the role of industrial design, which was previously limited to the objective of satisfying the market and so-called consumers with appealing products, has evolved.
2. Industrial Designers today: these actors of change
The role of the industrial design today is much more important than simply designing a product X or Y for the market. Today, its key role is to materialise through a product, a unique experience based on a sharp creative research, which is in accordance with the identity and values of the brand for which it is designed.
Its role is therefore to question, and re-question its questioning on a permanent basis, by proceeding by iteration.
The designer no longer works only on the resultant (the product and its specificities such as its appearance, functions and structure) but on the entire eco-system orbiting around it.
Thus, industrial designers follow a cutting-edge creative methodology that includes scientific and technical research, market studies, positioning, trend and market intelligence analyses, all combined through research focused on the end user and his needs.
What are the messages we want to convey to the user through the final product?
What should the product experience be for the user?
What feelings will the user experience when using the product?
For what major purpose? For what secondary purposes?
Indeed, industrial designers create systems of emotional experiences, seeking at every moment to incorporate a singular added value to the product. The goal is to elevate the user experience to an optimal and original level to allow brands to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
3. The problematic of Industrial Design today
Today, we live in an increasingly complex world socially, economically and geopolitically speaking, with increasingly legitimate questions raised about the environmental impacts generated by industry and mass production – these impacts, which happen to be more and more gigantic in a world that is increasingly limited both in terms of space and resources.
How could we improve the situation and promote positive behaviours among the industry?
One solution could be designing fewer but greater products.
4. What kind of world do we want for tomorrow?
Answering this question is (supposed to be) the main objective of industrial design today. At least, it is for Miio Studio, the industrial design agency we have been running for nearly 3 years, with a team of amazing talents.
5. "Good enough" is not enough.
Today, we find hundreds of thousands of products on the market that are "good enough" to be sold on a massive scale and thus drive the global economy. Indeed, a majority of companies develop "good enough" products before hiring communication and advertising agencies, and the trick is done: products will sell like hot cakes.
And they are.
Champagne! The famous R.O.I (Return of Investment) is reached.
Problem is these "good enough" products generating considerable sales are average products.
An average product is a product poorly designed that does not fully exploit its potential and therefore does not optimise the long-term profitability of the company.
At Miio Studio we thought - as committed industrial designers - that the added value for brands, industrialists and manufacturers in 2019 would be to shake up standards, question the product design system; to change the rules established to create products with a real soul and intrinsic meaning, in order to reflect the issues we all face in today's world – for the sole purpose of creating products that are in accordance with ourselves, and our most cherished principles.
But nothing really changed.
6. Understanding the added value of Industrial
Design for 2020
At Miio Studio, some of our leads are looking for product design services "to place their product on the same shelf as their competitors" because their products are selling like hot cakes – and they see no problem with that, even if it means losing part of their identity or integrity – and gradually disappearing from the market.
Unfortunately, this is not the best strategy to adopt.
No company should seek competition. And yet every company wants it, at the expense of taking the risk of differentiating itself and innovating.
As passionate industrial designers, defending diversity and innovation to meet the challenges of tomorrow's world mentioned above, we are too often reduced to the status of witnesses and not actors of change.
We are witnessing an era where, on the one hand, the world is becoming more connected and complex, but on another hand where most companies, large and small, only want to follow the standards set by their competitors, only to find themselves seeking safety and compliance.
What a sadness for us, passionate and idealist designers.
What a sadness for people.
7. Industrial design is an expertise and it is the
major asset of a company whose business model
is to develop products.
It is necessary to integrate and even multiply the practice of design in companies. All the most innovative brands on the market today have incorporated this practice into their strategy and corporate culture. To name but a few, I am thinking of NIO (蔚来), Xiaomi (小米), Logitech, Devialet, OnePlus or DJI. These same leaders are constantly questioning themselves thanks to the design methodology.
How can they improve the way they design their products and services to ensure their sustainability, while improving the quality of life for millions of people, is their reason for being.
Of course, more radical changes will have to be implemented soon in relation to the environmental problem that is becoming more and more problematic every day. But by asking the right questions and designing products that are perfectly designed for their end users, these innovative market figures allow people to use their products for the longest possible time. There's nothing magical about it.
A product designed in the best possible way is likely to satisfy the so-called consumers more fully - and in the long term. These same buyers, who will incorporate more esteem and emotional value into these well-designed products, will therefore use them over an extended period of time.
Design methodology is an essential process for the survival of small and large companies.
Design process allows companies to formalise the hard questions about the challenges they face today and raise problems before they even appear in order to plan and adjust their next positioning in the face of the growing challenges of the 21st century.
The sole purpose of design is to consider alternative models and solutions in the short term. Its purpose, in the long-term, is even to anticipate future problems before they arise.
8. Is it precisely the current context of global
complexity (or instability) that is driving even the
biggest brands to play it safe?
We can see that in the smartphone sector, in the automotive one, and others, everyone follows everyone. We are reaching breaking points. Few companies play the differentiation card. You have to sell, always and only sell. And we know why.
But the question of "how to sell better products and in a better way" will arise again, because the sustainability of companies as well as safeguarding employment and the environment is more important than generating millions today.
In the best case, by working with the best design agencies, companies will succeed in doing all three at the same time.
At Miio Studio, what we offer our customers is to place their new products anywhere – except on the same shelf as their competitors.
At Miio Studio, we must offer our customers the opportunity to become the A+ option on the market, and thus leave each of their competitors on the B shelf.
The products we develop for our customers are reflecting the specific needs and desires of each of their users to allow them to take a necessary lead in the market. In addition, our products perfectly reflect the identity and brand values of our partner customers.
What more could you ask for a brand?
9. Industrial Design as a strategical vehicle for
In the coming years, a majority of companies will have to rethink the way they integrate design upstream. Industrial design is a profession that stands out from the others because it evolves according to the times, contexts and social, economic, environmental and geo-political problems. Our mores, behaviours and societies are constantly changing, and we designers are responsible for corporate sustainability in this changing situation.
On this economic planet, we are a strategic, human and creative asset in responding to all the concrete problems of companies, enabling them to ensure their profitability over time.
We are business dreamers and are [should be] at the source of all product production on the market, upstream of engineers, developers and marketing teams – even if we work hand in hand. We are not subordinates, but re-thinkers (and sometimes visionaries) of our modern societies.
Today, we must change the course of events to move the industry forward.
Moreover, we never design for ourselves, but for people and we always measure our success based on the success of the companies we serve.
Trust us in the process, judge us on the results – And on your new booming R.O.I.
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