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Overcoming Barriers fashion design


the business of design



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Publisher Roxann Henze IDSA 45195 Business Ct., 250 Dulles, VA 20166 P: 703.707.6000 x102 F: 703.787.8501 roxannh@idsa.org www.innovationjournal.org

Executive Editor Alistair Hamilton, IDSA Principal, DesignPost arh@designpost.com Advisory Council Gregg Davis, IDSA Mark Dziersk, FIDSA

Managing Editor & Designer Karen Berube K.Designs 3511 Broadrun Dr. Fairfax, VA 22033 P: 703.860.4411 k.designs@cox.net Contributing Editor Jennifer Evans Yankopolus

Advertising Katie Fleger IDSA 45195 Business Ct., 250 Dulles, VA 20166 P: 703.707.6000 x104 F: 703.787.8501 katief@idsa.org advertising@idsa.org

The quarterly publication of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), Innovation provides in-depth coverage of design issues and long-term trends while communicating the value of design to business and society at large.

Annual Subscriptions Within the US $60 Canada & Mexico $75 International $110 Single Copies (Fall/Yearbook) US, Canada & Mexico $25 International $35 Single Copies (Spring, Summer, Winter) US, Canada & Mexico $17 International $28

Patrons of Industrial Design Excellence investor IDEO, Palo Alto, CA; Shanghai, China; Cambridge, MA; London, UK; San Francisco; Munich, Germany; Chicago; New York Masco, Taylor, MI

overcoming barriers 26 My Design, Your Design

Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH

by Ramsey Ford and Kate Hanisian, guest editors

29 These Are Gamechanging Days for Design 34 Social Design Entrepreneurship 38 Designing Empowerment 45 From IDEA to Startup

by Tom De Blasis

by De Andrea Nichols

by Akshay Sharma, IDSA

by Ryan Eder, IDSA

Webb deVlam Chicago, Chicago, IL Cultivator Altitude, Somerville, MA Cesaroni Design Associates Inc., Glenview, IL Continuum, Boston; Los Angeles; Milan, Italy; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China Crown Equipment, New Bremen, OH

48 Crafting Economic Opportunity: Design for Fair Trade Artisans

Dell, Round Rock, TX

by Ann-Marie Conrado, IDSA

Design Concepts, Madison, WI Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, TN Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, CA

features 16 Think Like a Fashion Designer by Valerie Jacobs

IDI/Innovation & Development Inc., Edgewater, NJ

20 VBL Meet MSBL by Mathieu Turpault, IDSA

Jerome Caruso Design Inc., Lake Forest, IL

In every issue

Metaphase Design Group, St. Louis, MO

4 From the Executive Editor by Alistair Hamilton, IDSA

Smart Design, New York; San Francisco;

6 The Business of Design by Gary Eisenkraft 8 Commentary

by Kathryn Holshouser, IDSA

10 Book Review

by Mark Dziersk, FIDSA

12 A Look Back

by Carroll Gantz, FIDSA

57 Showcase: Housewares

Lunar Design Inc., Palo Alto, CA Nokia Design, Calabasas, CA Barcelona, Spain Stanley Black & Decker, New Britain, CT Teague, Seattle, WA Tupperware, Worldwide Charter Patrons indicated by color.

For more information about becoming a Patron and supporting IDSA’s communication and education outreach, please contact Dawn Hatzer at 703.707.6000 x119.

QuarterLY of the industriaL designers soCietY of aMeriCa innOVAtiOn OVercOming BArriers

Overcoming Barriers fashion design


the business of design



winter 2011

winter 2011

Cover photo: iStockphoto

Advertisers’ Index

Innovation is the quarterly journal of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), the professional organization serving the needs of US industrial designers. Reproduction in whole or in part—in any form—without the written permission of the publisher is prohibited. The opinions expressed in the bylined articles are those of the writers and not necessarily those of IDSA. IDSA reserves the right to decline any advertisement that is contrary to the mission, goals and guiding principles of the Society. The appearance of an ad does not constitute an endorsement by IDSA. All design and photo credits are listed as provided by the submitter. Innovation is printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks. The use of IDSA and FIDSA after a name is a registered collective membership mark. Innovation (ISSN No. 0731-2334 and USPS No. 0016-067) is published quarterly by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)/Innovation, 45195 Business Ct., Suite 250, Dulles, VA 20166. Periodical postage at Sterling, VA 20164 and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to IDSA/Innovation, 45195 Business Ct., Suite 250, Dulles, VA 20166, USA. ©2011 Industrial Designers Society of America. Vol. 30, No. 4, 2011; Library of Congress Catalog No. 82-640971; ISSN No. 0731-2334; USPS 0016-067.

55 2012 Catalyst Awards 54 2012 IDEA c2 Cesaroni Design 25 ICFF 1 LaFrance Corp. c4 NewDealDesign c3 PTI 56 SEGD 9 solidThinking 5 Stratyasys 7 Studio Backs

from the editor

YProblems D esigners are never far from problems. The problems, most often, are projects that we undertake on behalf of a company, client or assignment. We tackle them with energy and confidence that there is a better something to be uncovered as a result of our efforts. Sometimes, though, we encounter problems in the form of adversity, or we seek out problems from our passions. This is when it becomes more personal. Sometimes personal causes are our platforms and our mission. Other times they are private. In either case, taking things personally and overcoming huge barriers sounded like a design story. Overcoming barriers became the common denominator. Examples of people and groups working against the odds are all around us. Women in a male-dominated workplace, age, ethnicity, economics and geography are all obvious examples where we know of design warriors, products or causes that have taken on big problems and fought the status quo. I have always found age to be an especially mystifying barrier, and it is a quality that all these warriors share at some stage. So much brilliance, passion and energy seems to be idling as we force young people through career paths before we give them positions of influence. But that doesn’t stop everyone. Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Dyson all saw the system as a barrier and broke out—and at an early age—while many also failed. Not many people have had the courage and belief in themselves to chart their own course and figure out for themselves how to break out. So even the modern Western “path” intended to groom us for success can be a barrier to progress. Back in 1942 Einstein said that “a person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so.” This could be a statement of individual genius, but it could also be a warning that we’d better make sure not to bottle up the young. This issue was guest edited by two people who are living the theme. Kate Hanisian and Ramsey Ford decided early in their careers to break from the status quo and combine their backgrounds in education and design to empower others to overcome their barriers. Their story was told in the summer

2011 issue of Innovation, and they return to pull together a collection of remarkable stories about others who are taking on similar pursuits. As one of our contributors, Tom De Blasis, put it, “We can use our talents to become gamechanging problem solvers and in the process work to create a better world.” Finally, a Request In the summer 2010 issue of Innovation, which was devoted to interactive experiences, I wrote about the interactive irony of a printed journal on the subject. There is a lot of passion for keeping a tangible printed object and equal passion for having a modern digital publication. So to test our passion, this issue will come to you in digital form only. It will reduce costs, increase distribution, and save material, chemicals and energy from printing and sending, but it will maintain the form and design of the information. It will not live on your coffee table or in your archive of Innovation journals in the same way. You will not feel the pages or smell the ink, and you will have to turn it off during take off and landing! I hope that it inspires your feedback. Please tell IDSA and Innovation what you think, either directly at editor@innovation.org or when you receive a request via email. This will be my last issue as executive editor. Mark Dziersk, FIDSA will return to the post starting with the spring 2012 issue. Thank you to the generous efforts of the guest editors and authors who have volunteered over the last couple of years, to the staff at IDSA and especially to Karen Berube, whose mind and hands make this such a valuable and important product for IDSA—whether it be atoms or bits. —Alistair Hamilton, IDSA Innovation Executive Editor


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the business of design

Cash-Strapped Times

How to Boost Cash Flow


ash is a design tool. Without it, exciting product design can’t happen. With all best intentions you strive to pay your employees, vendors and landlord promptly. However, you are stressed out in your struggle to make payroll because of clients who pay slowly. Costs increase as you pay interest on lines of credit that are close to maxed out. Where does this all end? Maybe at the beginning. Collections begins when you negotiate a contract. Be sure to specify monthly or semimonthly billing that includes all the work done in that period. Even if a company has a 60-day payment policy, during the negotiation process it may be easier than you think to get the payment terms reduced. One of the most common problems I see is billing at the end of phases. Your costs typically recur on a monthly cycle or less, so you must collect on a similar basis in order to keep current. Traditionally, invoices are payable within 30 days; however, I am currently seeing many firms specifying payment due upon the presentation of the invoice. In some cases it’s a good idea to get your clients into the habit of paying at the same time each month or every other week. We humans are creatures of habit. Use that to your advantage. Remember to bill as promptly and as frequently as possible. Unbilled work in process is project work waiting to be turned into cash. Also, the longer those projects remain unbilled, the more overhead costs they will absorb. Invoicing begins with time and project reports. You provide high-value services, but you must realize that to a large extent it also comes down to selling time and talent. Some time-tracking software may already be built into your project management or accounting systems. Other network- or cloud-based time-tracking software is easily obtained as well. There are no excuses for your staff failing to record time contemporaneously! At least 20 percent of additional billable time is usually found when staff are required to record their time at least once a day. When it comes down to it, people pay people. Interpersonal skills are important; you must establish rela-

tionships with your client’s staff who handle the payment system. Consider all involved, from the project manager to the accounts payable staff. You must know where and when to send correspondence and who can help with hang-ups. Become acquainted with your client’s administrative staff as soon as the contract is signed. You’ll want to know the company’s systems and processes because it’s not good to send a bill on the 11th of the month when bills are paid on the 10th. In addition to getting paid quickly, your clients will appreciate the interest that your people show in their organizations and how it all works. That’s terrific team building. It’s exciting to get an interesting, lucrative project; however, it’s critical that you evaluate the likelihood of getting paid promptly. Be sure to check trade references. Credit reporting agencies such as Dun & Bradstreet (dnb.com) report on a business’ credit worthiness much like consumer agencies do and provide cost-effective predictive tools. I suggest that you bill reimbursables separately. If those are the most disputed items on your invoices, why not separate them from the fee and get the bulk of your invoice paid on time? Remember to write your invoices in clear language that reflects the wording used in the contract and is understandable by your client’s personnel. Include all client-required payment forms and vouchers and send them in the preferred format, such as a PDF. Remember, before sending your client a bill, discuss any unusual amounts and overages with your contact. No one appreciates these types of surprises. Take the opportunity to give your client value by suggesting ways to hold down costs. This approach will get you paid faster and also increases the chances of more work coming your way. Know when to consider terminating client relationships. Slow payers increase accounting and other administrative costs related to collections. On the other hand, there are times when discounts for prompt payment are the least expensive way to accelerate cash flow—and good clients deserve to be rewarded. —Gary Eisenkraft gary@eisenkraftcpa.com


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“It’s tough to be a designer.”


’m sure most designers will agree with that statement. But is the toughness filtering women out of the profession? That’s a question I’ve been turning over since I attended the Women in Design panel discussion at April’s Mideast IDSA conference. The topic arose from an audience question regarding the panel members’ efforts to encourage more women to become designers. Dyan Van Fossen, IDSA of La-Z-Boy explained (using her own children as examples) that women in our culture are socialized differently and that characteristics attributed to tough-mindedness simply aren’t rewarded. So, not having been conditioned for the type of toughness that design seems to require, women may be uniquely challenged when it comes to being successful in this field. While this might seem like an outdated argument, I have to say, from my experience and observation, I agree. Don’t misunderstand me—I know there are women out there who are as tough as nails—but I have seen too many new designers (women and men) struggling with self-doubt and exhausted from the relentless need to prove their own worth. Even Mary Beth Privitera, IDSA admitted to having given herself frequent pep talks as a younger designer as reassurance that she was “good enough and smart enough” to contribute to a group of PhD-wielding medical and engineering professionals. Van Fossen defined “tough-mindedness” as being strong, having self-confidence, knowing yourself, having passion and being able to sell your ideas and yourself. I think that having self-confidence is where a lot of women struggle. If you don’t believe that what you have to say has real value, how can you expect to have your voice heard? Designers today are not only faced with the challenges of designing, but we have to step up as leaders as well. We know the value of design, but often times our coworkers and collaborators—even our bosses—don’t understand what we do or what we’re capable of doing. Judy Riley, IDSA of Moen discussed having spent her entire career working in cultures where design was undervalued and that for her next career turn she’d like the opportunity to work for a company like Apple, where design is a driving force.

Unfortunately, companies like Apple aren’t the norm, and new graduates, who may have little to no experience working in a corporate environment, are being confronted with the reality that the battle’s not over once you land the job. Being a designer can seem intimidating to anyone, and with additional challenges, like the ones posed by social conditioning and traditional gender roles (Van Fossen also mentioned feeling guilty about being away from her family so much), might be tipping the scales for many women. I’m not saying that men are better suited to be designers. Women have a lot to bring to the table: a sensitivity and perspective much different from a man. Diversity of perspective is undeniably beneficial in design. But to achieve this diversity, more women need to get involved and stay involved. So what’s the solution? I have to admit I don’t know, which is very uncharacteristic for a designer. I think as far as getting women (or anyone, really) involved, the recent efforts to introduce design at the K–12 level might be very beneficial. But encouraging women to stay involved might be a more difficult task. One thing I propose is providing mentors to new female designers outside of the work environment. (Let’s face it, there are some things we struggle with that we may not be running to share with our bosses.) The other thing I propose is offering more career guidance. I believe that recent graduates aren’t fully aware of their options, nor what their true strengths are. I suspect that young designers can be so focused on their weaknesses that they fail to acknowledge their strengths. Advice like “Take any job offered to you in this economy” can be detrimental by pushing people into work environments that aren’t a good fit (and, therefore, not a good foundation for success). Van Fossen said that tough-mindedness was required to be a designer. If this trait is determined by a woman’s strength, passion, self-confidence and self-knowledge, is it possible to help her develop tough-mindedness if we give her the right tools and encouragement? Design is tough, and it isn’t for everyone. But I’d hate to see people with a genuine interest and great promise walk away when they could have been our next leaders if they had just had a little extra support from the beginning. —Kathryn Holshouser, IDSA kathryn.holshouser@medela.com

If you have a commentary you’d like to share, send your 500 words to Innovation’s managing editor at k.designs@cox.net.


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book review

Dieter Rams

As Little Design as

Courtesy of Dieter Rams


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Florian Böhm


ne reality is that if you are an industrial designer, it’s time to make room for a new book—this one is going to take up some space. A deservedly thorough and appropriately thick tome, this new book by British design historian Sophie Lovell profiles Dieter Rams’ life and work and is simply a must-have for any serious design library. As one might expect from a designer of Dieter Rams’ stature, he has a philosophy: 10 principles that govern great design (see the next page). This book is titled after his 10th principle: “Good design is as little design as possible.” It is a fascinating review of what a life in design can be and the legacy it can leave. You see, Dieter Rams is a living Dieter Rams’ house in Kronberg, Germany, in 1971. A view of the courtyard from the studio. legend in design. Products he designed The book begins with an introduction in the 1960s are still manufactured and by the current head of design at Apple, sought after today. Vintage versions of his Jonathan Ive, who gives deserving and products are coveted and collected. He is respectful acknowledgement to Rams in rightfully a hero to many in design, includan interesting and very personal foreword. ing me. I own no less than a dozen Braun It confirms what we already know that the classics, including the cool Braun calculatwo are kindred spirits in approach and tor with the M&M keys that never goes out execution. Ive acknowledges the influence, of style and has worked for me for over especially in the case of a particular Braun 20 years straight, without a battery. Movie juicer his family owned, which helped to soundtracks at my house are powered shape his view of great design. In addition by a Rams-designed vintage ADS R1 to Ive and Naoto Fukasawa, and in later receiver, which still works as well as it did chapters Sam Hecht and Konstantin Grcic, when I bought it new, in the 1980s. are examined relative to the influence of Dieter Rams was born in Wiesbaden, this design master. Germany, in 1932. In 1955 he joined Braun, Also toward the beginning, Dr. Klaus a German electronics company, where he Kemp, the head of exhibitions at the Frankfurt Museum of and his colleagues were able to create some of the world’s Applied Arts, profiles Rams’ early life and training as an most notable designs of the 20th century. He became head architect. The book goes on to discuss his work, philosophy of design and stayed at Braun until 1995, 40 prolific years.

Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles for Good Design 1. Good design is innovative. The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology and can never be an end in itself.

Possible and theory in an interesting and well-crafted way. No critique offered here about the content or the writing. This read is more than worth the investment of time. The photographs by the German photographer Florian Böhm also provide delicious visual interludes. Three major sequences—the first a profile of the Braun archive in Kronberg, Germany; the second, Rams in his home and his home itself; and the third, intimate close-ups of details and features of Rams’ products are well placed among exquisite full-bleed images. In addition to the Braun work, the book also covers work he did for the furniture company Vitsoe and profiles his home and work studio, all offering further insight into Rams and his point of view. As is fitting in such a tribute, the book is a beautiful thing. Designed by Kobi Benezri, it is wonderfully detailed and well-crafted. The text and black-and-white images are fabulously printed on uncoated Munken paper. The fourcolor images are printed on a bright-white coated stock, which makes them rich and inviting. The binding detail and texture of the cover are an appropriate nod to a designer who himself obsessed over this kind of exquisite detailing. As for pure enjoyment, the book offers a bountiful visceral collection of unexpected imagery, including of workshops and back hallways filled with equipment, products and work areas. These candid photos create a kind of understanding that there is a need in design to touch and feel and build. While this beautifully designed book is about the life and philosophy of the man, perhaps the best take away concerns not Rams at all but rather the idea that Braun uses design as a successful business strategy and that Rams and his colleagues were the caretakers and facilitators of this strategy. Dieter Rams was a master in the boardroom and the design studio. Bottom line, this one receives my strongest recommendation. Put it on your holiday gift list as a must-have, and revel in its exciting, respectful and honest profile of one of the world’s most talented industrial designers ever.

2. Good design makes a product useful. A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it. 3. Good design is aesthetic. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful. 4. Good design makes a product understandable. It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory. 5. Good design is unobtrusive. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression. 6. Good design is honest. It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept. 7. Good design is long lasting. It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years—even in today’s throwaway society. 8. Good design is thorough, down to the last detail. Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer. 9. Good design is environmentally friendly. Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product. 10. Good design is as little design as possible. Less, but better—because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

—Mark Dziersk, FIDSA mark@lunar.com

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a look back

Against All Odds


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oliticians who criticize and seek to punish the rich never seem to mention the rich individuals who have brought jobs to thousands, dramatic economic growth to the economy or personal satisfaction to the millions of users of their products and services. What is it about capitalism, the political

system that gave the middle class the highest standard of living in the world, that they fail to understand? They don’t understand that potential wealth is the incentive that attracts individuals to take personal risks, to decline secure jobs and to persevere, against all odds, to achieve success in a highly competitive business culture.

Against All Odds, as a matter of fact, is the appropriate title of a 1997 autobiography by James Dyson, a billionaire who started out just as many of us did: as a design student. From 1965 to 1966, he studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art (now part of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) and then studied furniture and interior design at the Royal College of Art. By the time Dyson graduated from the Royal College in 1970, he had already developed and launched the Sea Truck, a high-speed landing craft, with sales to date of $500 million. After moving into engineering, he developed a number of ideas for unique products based on the simple concept of a ball. The first was the Ballbarrow, a wheelbarrow that used a large red ball instead of the traditional wheel, which was introduced in the UK in 1974 and within three years was a market leader. Next was the Trolleyball, a boat launcher with ball wheels that was launched in 1978. Yet another was the Wheelboat, a vehicle with huge inflated

wheels that could travel 40 mph on land or water. Dyson was already a successful businessman and manufacturer before he began to think about the product for which he would become most famous: his vacuum cleaner with cyclonic action. In 1979, he became frustrated with the diminishing performance of his household vacuum cleaner as dust increasingly clogged the replaceable paper filter bag. This common occurrence typically reduces suction by 50 percent. Dyson was familiar with the cyclone tower in his Ballbarrow factory that separated powder particles in the spray-paint finishing room and kept them from clogging the air filter. Such cyclonic filtration was common in commercial and in-house installed vacuum systems. Cyclonic systems do not require disposable filter bags. Instead, air and dust are sucked at high speed through a cylindrical vessel in a direction tangential to the vessel wall, creating a fast-spinning vortex. The dust and dirt particles are moved to the outside wall of the vessel by a centrifugal force of 150,000 Gs, where gravity forces them to fall into a collection

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a look back

bin. The system does not lose power, as in the clogging of filter bags, but retains full power until the collection vessel is almost full. Dyson wondered if the same principle could be applied to household vacuum cleaners. Of course, it had been. But Dyson, unfamiliar with US vacuum cleaners, was probably unaware of that. For instance, the Newcombe Bagless cleaner was patented in 1922 and introduced in 1928, first as a hand vac and then as an upright, which in 1936 was refined by Rexaire into a canister cleaner. In 1939 the Filter Queen 200, a canister cleaner distributed by HealthMor in Cleveland, OH, was introduced. The system had been patented by Ed Yonkers in 1937, which HealthMor bought and introduced under the Health-Mor name and was made by Royal. Patents had expired long ago, but both these canister type cleaners were, and still are, being produced. In any event, Dyson filed an English patent application in 1979 for a cyclonic action upright cleaner, and in 1980 filed the same patent in the US. Over the next five years, partly supported by his wife’s salary as an art teacher, Dyson developed 5,127 prototypes. In 1983 he produced the refined G-Force prototype cleaner in bright pink and sought to license his patents to vacuum cleaner manufacturers in the UK. None were interested for the simple reason that his design required no disposable filter bags, which had been used by most manufacturers since the 1930s. The sale of such replacement bags was a lucrative secondary business worth about $500 million annually to the industry. Why give up that never-ending source of high-margin profit? So in 1986, Dyson launched his


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G-Force upright cleaner in Japan through Apex Inc. catalog sales, selling it at a price of £2,000 ($1,800). It was the first cyclonic action upright cleaner on the market since 1929. In 1991 it won an International Design Fair prize in Japan. After being rejected by many major vacuum manufacturers and almost broke, Dyson licensed his patent rights to Amway in 1991, which paid him an advance, but then the company changed its mind and wanted the money back. Dyson then went to a small Canadian company called Iona, who also signed a licensing agreement but later wanted to negotiate Dyson’s royalties downward. He conceded (he had to, he was broke). Iona began selling Dyson’s design under the trade name of Fantom. Although initially successful, Iona went bankrupt in 2001. Royalties from the sale of Dyson’s G-Force in Japan enabled him to open a research center and factory in Malmsbury, Wiltshire, UK, where he began production of his DC01 Dual Cyclone upright cleaner in 1993. It was priced at £200 ($325), twice that of a conventional vacuum, with the slogan, “Say Goodbye to the Bag.” That same year, Dyson introduced a dual cyclone canister cleaner, the DC02. By 1995, the DC01 became the fastest-selling vacuum cleaner in the UK, and the DC02 the second. Both were radically different from the competition in terms of technology and appearance, the latter being elegantly simple and yet highly expressive of function. With the success of his products in global markets, Dyson had become a national celebrity as an industrial designer, entrepreneur and

successful business tycoon. In 1997, he became a member of the prestigious British Design Council and a trustee of the UK’s National Design Museum. Dyson’s cleaners were having a powerful impact on the global market. Hoover UK, with sales declining, responded competitively to the obvious success of Dyson and in 1997 introduced its version of a cyclonic upright cleaner, the WindTunnel Deluxe, studiously avoiding the terms “cyclone” or “cyclonic action.” In 1999, after a lengthy court battle, Hoover UK was found guilty of infringing on Dyson’s patent, and paid $5 million in damages. Hoover’s vice president for Europe, Mike Rutter, stated on TV that he regretted not buying cyclonic technology from Dyson when it was offered so that it could have been shelved and not used. By 2001, Dyson had 29 percent of the European vacuum cleaner market and was the top-selling brand. That year, Dyson developed Root Cyclone technology by replacing the Dual Cyclone with eight individual cyclones in his DC07 upright. Dyson cleaners were first sold in the US in 2002. With Dyson’s patents expired, many competitors introduced cyclonic systems, but not Dyson’s award-winning design style. His designs were subsequently included in the permanent collections of the London Science Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. In 2005, Dyson introduced his DC15 upright with a large ball instead of wheels, which became known as The Ball. It enabled users to steer the cleaner easily by simply twisting the handle. The DC15 used Root 8 technology, with eight individual cyclones. The DC15 was the first Dyson handheld cyclonic cleaner. Dyson designs not only led the vacuum cleaner industry but influenced global design toward a higher level of excellence.

With his name in lights and with speaking engagements around the world, Dyson became the most famous industrial designer on the globe, achieving personal visibility not seen since the likes of Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss and Walter Dorwin Teague. Generously, in 2005 Dyson initiated an annual global student design competition, called the Eye for Why. Organized and run by the James Dyson Foundation, it claimed to “celebrate, encourage and inspire the next generation of design engineers.” Open to graduates or recent graduates in the fields of product design, industrial design and engineering, this competition and 20 other regional student competitions were rolled into a larger global competition and renamed the James Dyson Award in 2008. National winners are chosen, and the international winner receives a £10,000 prize (that’s $16,000 US), a trophy and a visit to a Dyson R&D center. In the meantime, in 2006, Dyson became Sir James Dyson when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. By 2011 he was a billionaire. It doesn’t get any better than that for an industrial designer. Against all odds, Dyson had become the Steve Jobs of the vacuum world! Who would want to take away the incentive of “rich” guys like these, other than those opposed to capitalism? —Carroll Gantz, FIDSA carrgantz@bellsouth.net

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By Valerie Jacobs valerie_jacobs@lpk.com


Twitter: @LPKTrends

Valerie Jacobs, vice president, group director of LPK Trends, is a seasoned design forecaster focusing on the development of trend analysis for LPK client brands. Her strategic approach melds together research, analysis and translation of trend data into actionable strategies as they relate to design for consumer brand initiatives. She is also a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning.

Think Like a Fashion Designer


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n today’s world of increasing pressure on timing and budgets and the demand for emotionally captivating creative work, it pays to think differently. Using our classically trained design brains, most of us work on an array of mass-produced products to improve what’s already there, to innovate and to truly

make a difference, creating a design that’s timeless, classic and signature. However, in meeting or reading about fashion designers, what is your immediate impression? In many design circles, fashion design is often not well respected or taken seriously. Fashion designers are often falsely portrayed as outrageous personas in an industry that thrives off fleeting trends. This image undermines any connection, or tangible lessons, to the discipline of design. More importantly, it fails to acknowledge what is indisputable: fashion permeates our lives. For some, it inspires our work. For many, however, fashion gives us the tools we need to craft an image that differentiates us from, or joins us to, the pack. It is a crucial element to understanding a consumer as both an individual and as part of a community. Contrary to the prevailing stereotype, fashion designers employ a deliberate and unique set of strategies to successfully build brands that viscerally connect with consumers. Thinking like fashion designers, business leaders, graphic and industrial designers, and brand managers, can spur creative thinking and revitalize the design and innovation process. The crux of the fashion design model of thinking ultimately relies on an intimate awareness of the consumer, who is constantly nurtured. Fashion designers know their audience perhaps better than they know themselves. Their devotion manifests itself in the knowledge of who their consumers are and, more importantly, the lives they want to lead. Fashion designers are equally aware of the ebb and flow of their environment: the ever-changing social and cultural aspects of our society. By embracing the constant

change and fluidity of the world around them, fashion designers bring a sense of the zeitgeist to their brands. As a result, brands are refreshed and are continuously relevant. Consequently, a steady supply of consumers eagerly await the newest and hottest iteration from their favorite design houses, often putting themselves on wait lists for cult items and pre-ordering specialty merchandise. Fashion Thinking The techniques used by fashion designers are particularly relevant to other areas of business in that they blend traditional pragmatic approaches with a reliance on instinctual knowledge to guide the way to the ultimate destination. Crafting an Aspirational Lifestyle. Fashion designers are acutely aware of how their consumers aspire to live. In other words, they create an aspirational lifestyle driven by a focus on the brand’s overall aesthetic, rather than the consumers’ functional experience with the brand. This aspirational lifestyle is inextricably linked to the brand’s point of view. This point of view is crafted by the designer, embodying taste, style and even an overall outlook on life and how it should be experienced. It is projected outwardly for consumers to see, covet (in advertising, etc.) and experience (in stores). Once fashion designers create a brand lifestyle, they convince consumers that it is possible to live it—no matter where they may fall on the economic strata. Fashion brands

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often achieve this by extending their brand equity into related points-of-entry categories like fragrance, eyewear, cosmetics or leather goods—lower-tier status markers that gain one membership to the Ralph Lauren or Burberry club. Further, there is often an inherent story attached to the lifestyle, which enables consumers to enter the narrative in their own way and bring the fantasy of fashion into their world, if only psychologically. Tapping into the Zeitgeist. Designers often leverage consumer research, data or other quantifiable figures as foundational information from which they design. On the contrary, fashion designers rely on trends as their foundation. They work to fully understand shifts in the overall cultural and aesthetic trends, blend them together, derive inspiration and create newness for consumers. In order to compete and be successful, fashion designers need to be on the cutting edge and often can’t wait on research to be collected, analyzed and cultivated. Within fashion design, the one perfect idea does not exist. Fashion designers are scavengers for inspiration and take clues from different, often entirely unrelated or disconnected, realms. Fashion designers follow trends with a rigor so remarkable that they are also responsible for creating them. For other industries, fashion often represents the spirit of the times and is used as a resource to access current, past and future trends. Speed to Market. Fashion designers are built for speed. They are uniquely trained to craft concepts, execute ideas and put them into production to meet fashion’s seasonal calendar, traditionally four times a year, but now even more frequently due to fast-fashion houses like Forever 21 and H&M that often refresh their merchandise every 10 weeks. Not only are fashion designers able to go from concept to prototype to final product in record time, they also are known for their prolific exploration. By using handsketching techniques, such as the SCAMPER method, fashion designers rely on iteration (slight changes that alter the design over many sketches) as much as ideation (single and entirely new executions). This approach is extremely disciplined and produces hundreds of sketches. Instead of perfecting the idea up front, the emphasis is on editing and curating the collection later in the process.


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Creating Desire and Anticipation. Each season, fashion designers cultivate anticipation and desire through fashion shows, red-carpet culture and advertising campaigns that emerge months before products are released in stores. Fashion weeks in Paris or New York are to couture cults what Apple conferences are to techies: a tease of what goodies are in store for them. Not only does this plant the seeds for voracious consumer demand, it effectively garners buy-in from consumers before products can even be found on the rack. Consumers anxiously await their chance to reap the fresh style that the designers have sown. Design can borrow from this approach as well: What strategies can you employ to build anticipation? What is going to make your consumer say “I’ve got to have it?� Storytelling through Collection Curation. Borrowing from fashion design principles can help to achieve a balance between functional and emotional associations. As previously discussed, fashion designers have a knack for creating a lifestyle that consumers aspire to take part in. The truth is, fashion designers understand how easily replaceable their products are, but they create strong emotional bonds with their consumers through storytelling. Beyond romancing the product itself, fashion designers place products within the context of a larger story. They create an entire lifestyle, instinctually earmarking other items for that collection as vital contributors, enabling their consumers to draw new associations between two previously unconnected items. These same principles, while a departure from traditional product assortment and SKU selection techniques, can inspire alternative methods with meaningful outcomes. While the function and brand story remain the same, this curatorial approach to assortment allows products to move from disposable to remarkable, from a commodity to an artifact. Fashioning Outcomes So, what does this mean for the classically trained designer? Why should you care about fashion? Understanding the principles and practices of fashion design and thinking like a fashion designer can offer a new design approach, helping to reinvigorate work and reconnect designers with what got them into the industry in the

first place: their creativity. It is not an antidote for bad design, but an alternative method to help designers grow into holistic, well-rounded creatives with an aesthetic point of view that can stretch across many categories. Ultimately, the fashion design process is not that different from the design processes used by industrial designers or graphic designers, but the nuances can create powerful differences in the outcomes. Training other designers to think like and design like fashion industry leaders could provide immediate and beneficial results. Global branding agencies that put fashion thinking into practice have reported several outcomes. Their designers begin producing work that is innovative and more emotionally relevant to the consumer. Company-wide, the emphasis shifts to extensive inspiration, a stronger understanding and activation of trends, and a return to trusting your gut. Thinking like a fashion designer presents an opportunity to reinvent brands on an emotional level and to enhance and elevate the design process. By connecting to the instinctual, creative side, fashion thinking elevates innovation, transcends consumer function and cultivates consumer desire. It can provide solutions for integrating consumer research, trends, inspirations and design techniques in order to move from a siloed design practice to one that offers holistic and signature ideas. n

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By Mathieu Turpault, IDSA mturpault@bresslergroup.com n Twitter: @bresslergroup Mathieu Turpault is the director of design and a partner at Bresslergroup in Philadelphia. He believes designers have the ability and responsibility to influence and direct change— and that their unique set of problem-solving skills position them to lead.



isual brand language (VBL) has been a very effective design tool, helping companies promote their brand message and foster customer loyalty. But like all effective strategies, there comes a time to modify and leverage new tools and techniques. Thanks to technical advances, we’re

now able to create multisensory product experiences for more and more products. The opportunity exists to engage customers visually and through form development. And as we expand the definition of VBL to include more tactile, audible and interactive elements, it makes sense to broaden its definition to something like multisensory brand language or MSBL.


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Moving Beyond VBL Looking back into the not-too-distant past, a strong advocacy for the development of visual brand language among design professionals significantly impacted business and raised awareness among marketers of the power of effective product branding. A classic example is the Whirlpool Duet line of paired front-loader washers and dryers. The product line’s case study published by the Corporate Design Foundation reveals that before Duet was introduced only about 20 percent of consumers bought washers and dryers in pairs, compared to 80 percent after the launch. According to the article, the trend continues today with front-loader pairs selling above 90 percent. So history tells us that brand identity not only makes sense and builds preference but it also drives the bottom line, making it that much more exciting to add MSBL to our design toolbox. For me as a design director, it opens up new opportunities for creative expression and gives me a more significant say in how the products my team designs will impact people’s lives. This dynamic reminds me of the shift away from siloed engineering and design functions to today’s more integrated processes—and gives me hope that as a profession we will be able to push for further integration of interaction design for the good of the brand. As I’ll detail later in this article, the siloing of user-interface development today stands as one of the major challenges to getting MSBL integration right. The true integration of user interface design with industrial design really is inevitable. The question is how long it takes and who gets it right faster and gains market prominence. Because regardless of what market you’re in, today’s products have more embedded smarts than your first PC. We’re working on devices from consumer to medical to commercial with the typical question being, How do we leverage computing power, touch screens and wireless? versus, Can we afford to integrate these technologies? And

all of this ubiquitous technology has created an expectation among consumers for more and better features on even the most mundane devices. It really hit home for me (literally) one day as I watched my son play games simultaneously on his iPod and PlayStation—one hand on each controller. My knee-jerk reaction was to tell him that he couldn’t possibly do both at the same time. But as I watched more closely, he was able to perform reasonably well at both, dealing with a huge amount of cognitive and sensory stimuli. Without getting into the ethical debate over-stimulation, I think we know as product designers that if consumers are given the opportunity to do the unexpected, you can be sure they will. We can all dream up digital equivalents of the guy using his lawnmower to trim hedges. So good, bad or indifferent, users always expect more from new products, and that’s not likely to change. The MSBL opportunity lies in integrating technology to improve the experience and foster fierce brand loyalty. Thinking about the tools at our disposal, the potential is very exciting. In our practice we’re looking to leverage more and more sensory stimuli, including audible sound signatures and haptic feedback in addition to the more traditional visual and tactile modalities. At Bresslergroup we have some good experience with audible interface elements, including the development of our IDEA-winning vocal smoke detector. The device uses a parental or “familiar” voice recording to more effectively wake young children in the case of fire. We were also able to provide automated voice feedback to the consumer to ensure proper recording and setup. The price was workable a couple of years ago and is flat out cheap today. We’ve also been watching the work of Katherine J. Kuchenbecker and her team at Penn’s Haptic Lab. They’ve worked with Intuitive Surgical to develop more advanced tactile feedback for the da Vinci system. According to a Popular Science article, “Kuchenbecker designed VerroTouch, a device that measures the vibrations produced by touching

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flesh and reproduces them in da Vinci tools. Early results suggest that surgeons using VerroTouch do more delicate work.” So in addition to opportunities to create richer consumer experiences, leveraging the tools available could lead to better medical outcomes. And interestingly, combined sensory inputs may be greater than the sum of the parts. Research at Sweden’s Chalmers University suggests that “information received from one sense created expectations for experiences through other senses, and the information perceived through the second sense was used to confirm or modify anticipated experiences.” A study reported in the International Journal of Design also suggests that “the less prior knowledge participants had of the particular product, the more important the additional information delivered through the second sense appeared to be.” How’s that for an opportunity to garner favor for your new venture into a competitive market? Marketers are going to need all of the product improvement tools we can introduce. Consumers today can easily bypass promotional messages and quickly tap into real user feedback and recommendations. So providing a richer experience with neatly integrated features is critical. Exciting and rewarding new product experiences give consumers something to talk about. Likewise, less than satisfactory experiences will be shared liberally! Fortunately, brand researchers have started to catch up with consumers, creating new ways to track brand preference. According to a recent Fast Company piece, “The explosion of social media channels and technologies has forced brands to play catch up with consumers and often into becoming awkward or unwanted ‘friends.’” The article continues to describe one evolved brand-tracking tool called Brand Social Currency.


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Developed by Vivaldi Partners, MIT and Lightspeed Research, Brand Social Currency “is defined as the extent to which people share the brand and/or information about the brand as part of their everyday social lives at work or at home. It is made up of six key dimensions or ‘levers’— Utility, Affiliation, Identity, Conversation, Advocacy and Information.” Engaging and meaningful multisensory experiences have the potential to influence at least three of these factors with utility being obvious. Vivaldi describes advocacy as, “Are your followers and employees advocates? To what extent do they help promote and market your brand? Identity is described as, Who is your brand? Does the face of your brand go beyond your product or service?” Road Blocks So what’s standing in our way? The technologies are pretty well known and generally affordable, and we have the research tools to quantify the impact of innovation. We’re convinced that we need to drive change in two areas to keep pace with technology and catch up with changing consumer expectations. I call them silos and skill sets. There’s a classic example of how these two obstructions can keep us from leveraging the MSBL opportunity: The great Don Norman, in one of his essays, nailed it with commentary on what the automotive industry has done with the opportunity. Think about it. The auto industry has a huge opportunity for multisensory impact. They have visual, tactile, audible. They even have that new-car smell working for them. But as Norman wrote, “The automobile industry is copying all the worst features of the computer industry, ignoring all the advances in user-interface design and all the lessons about safety. Unlike home computers where bad design is simply a nuisance, with automobiles bad design

can be a major safety issue.” And he’s not picking on Detroit only. The essay chastises BMW for missing the boat with its recent on-board techno-wizardry. But Norman stops short of addressing what he thinks is the biggest reason for the usability disconnect. In our view it’s attributable to silos and skill sets. In the case of the automotive industry and other large corporations, it’s more likely that the silos are getting in the way since these organizations have the ability to employ the right kind of people with the right skill sets. But if not properly employed, even the right skill sets can be misallocated. As previously mentioned, design and engineering used to be much more siloed in the past. Through good design management, we’ve made big strides toward integrated product development. De-siloing the user interface function should be doable too. But while industrial design and engineering used to be over the wall from each other, design and user interface might be in different buildings or cities. Obviously there are some very notable exceptions, but in general, user interface teams are operating in different parts of organizations, sometimes growing out of software development, sometimes even out of IT or Web develop-

ment. And everyone has their own professional associations, so it’s hard to even get folks networking. (A recent exception: We hosted a great design slam recently with Philly Chi, a local UX design chapter. See IDSA’s reporting.) The good news is that reorganizations are commonplace these days, which suggests opportunity to drive the right people together to work in modified processes. And the processes surely need to be modified. As disciplines collide for good, we can share process tools to create new models that leverage best practices. We’ve learned a lot recently by studying and integrating practices from traditional software development processes, including Agile and Scrum, where the focus is more on iterative evolution than sequential and linear funneling. The biggest challenge is aligning deliverables, which traditionally do not materialize in the same timeframe with the same levels of fidelity. The modified process is driven through a series of iterative sprints resulting in physical prototypes that can then be tested with users. The focus on merged deliverables from all disciplines is really what makes this process work better. Ideas can be quickly tested and either validated or dismissed.

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the team. This can be especially frustrating when another company quickly follows with the same conceptual solution but executed more faithfully without skill-set limitations.

We certainly have a ways to go, but we’re starting to see very positive results based on what is, admittedly, an evolving process. And it will be harder for bigger organizations to move their processes, but we’re not talking about radical surgery here. The other thing we learned the hard way is that you need the right skill sets to leverage the opportunities. For a while, we tried to get by with having trained industrial designers do double duty as user-interface folks. This type of skill-set limitation can lead to morphing design solutions to fit the talents of your team, rather than defining the ideas and then assigning the talent to execute. We’ve also seen this happen within organizations that have a software development platform of choice, which can end up changing the desired result based on the technical limitations of


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Embracing MSBL There are several specific things organizations can do to maximize their MSBL expertise, including defining the range of skill sets needed to do the job right and either hiring staff or engaging with outside consultants. Importantly, they can train team members from different disciplines on key issues critical to the other disciplines. My colleague Rob Tannen, IDSA has conducted such training sessions with clients, including teaching user interface folks about human factors and industrial designers about the importance of effective user-interface usability. This sensitivity goes a long way to helping cross-functional teams communicate effectively and collaborate toward better solutions. Design organizations (corporate and consulting), schools and professional associations can also promote cross-memberships and multidisciplinary events, award programs and conferences to promote effective and bestpractice discipline integrations. Once all the pieces are strung together, the result will be improved product experiences, greater brand loyalty, increased business success and additional professional opportunities for the integrator. Using an expanded toolbox, effective MSBL is a bridge between the intangible and the tangible. It translates consciously created values into tangible design elements with conscious and unconscious product experience benefits. The possibilities are really exciting! We’re also looking forward to creating our first set of truly multisensory product branding guidelines. Just think about how much fun that will be to put together! n

ICFF CALL FOR ENTRIES IDSANYC is proud to announce an opportunity for furniture and accessories designers to showcase their designs and promote their business at the 24th Annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), May 19-22, 2012, in New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. In 2010, IDSANYC celebrated our 5th year at ICFF and exhibitors at IDSANYC’s booth received amazing press coverage, unprecedented orders and added new retailers to their businesses. We followed this prior success with another excellent event in 2011, so don’t pass up on the opportunity to bring your designs to the forefront of this home and contract furnishing market spotlight event in 2012! Space is limited and entries are juried. The deadline forsubmissions is March 23th. For complete details please download the application form* and layout** on our website, idsanyc.org

By Ramsey Ford and Kate Hanisian ramsey@d-impact.org n kate@d-impact.org



Ramsey Ford and Kate Hanisian are cofounders of Design Impact, a nonprofit organization that partners professional designers with community organizations in India for long-term economic and community development. They have worked in India for the past two years but have permanent residence in Cincinnati.

Overcoming Barriers

My Design, Your Design


t is appropriate that the theme of this issue of Innovation—on the heels of the IDSA’s international conference in New Orleans—is overcoming barriers. The focus of the recent conference was community, and many speakers took that as an opportunity to talk about how they’ve used design for the

benefit and development of low-income or marginalized communities. Much of their work focused on removing barriers to growth and providing access to new opportunities. This issue continues that conversation. We’ll explore overcoming barriers as it relates to usage and access but also in how it relates to the structure and reach of the design profession itself. Understanding users and making their lives easier are two principles that drive many designers. These concepts are enshrined in our education and history and, therefore, are reflected in this issue. The articles herein focus on simplifying the use of products and showcasing impressive accounts outside the traditional corporate setting that open doors for others through design. However, as we saw at IDSA’s international conference in New Orleans, overcoming barriers is not always about usage—it is often about access. The concept of access is more abstract than that of usage, and designers often struggle with articulating and


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understanding its impact. Access can be understood as the equivalent of freedom: freedom to work, to learn, to move, to express oneself, to consume and to play. Designers have just begun to move beyond developing individual products to work with larger economic and social systems that widen the experience and opportunities for users. The emergence of service design as a field of study and the expansion in design education to consider systems and society are two ways that design is approaching this new area of focus. And as design has looked to influence these larger systems, it has also grown its own geographic and social boundaries.

Students and professors from the School of Art & Design at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University in Hangzhou, China, participating in a furniture design workshop.

On a global scale, we’ve witnessed the emergence of Asia as a center of design. From the increasing number of design graduates in China’s university system to the development of technology-meshing concepts from South Korea to the rise of important design institutions in India, there is a growing presence of design thinking across the globe. In addition to this geographic spread of design, we’ve watched as more and more women enter the field, enriching themselves and consumers with more appropriate products and services. But even as design grows in these new directions, it still has barriers to overcome.

Building credibility and interest in non-Caucasian populations is a hugely important task for the field to take on in the coming years. Additionally, like most professions, there is an under representation of people from low-income backgrounds entering the space. This exclusion of portions of our population from the ranks of designers greatly weakens us as a field. As design grows with a global reach that impacts the lives of consumers and citizens in every income level, geographic location and cultural sub-group, it is important to critique our momentum and look for opportunities to reduce the barriers of entry to our own profession. n

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By Tom De Blasis tom.deblasis@nike.com n www.globalgiving.org/projects/gamechanger-bucket/ Tom De Blasis is a global design director for Nike. His latest creation is called the Gamechanger Bucket, a health and happiness kit that brings access to both clean water and sports to disaster areas and communities in need all over the world.

These Are Gamechanging Days for Design


t was August 2005 and I was at IDSA’s national conference in Washington, DC, listening to an inspiring keynote address by

William McDonough, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. How can I help, was my thought? I’m not an emergency responder. I’m not an architect. I’m not a civil engineer. I’m not an urban planner. I’m an industrial designer. How can I respond, not just as a volunteer and another pair of hands but as a designer using my talents

All photos Chris McPherson

and skills as a problem solver?

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I looked around and the only design professionals I could find who were doing anything in response to Katrina was Architecture for Humanity, who had recently published the book Design Like You Give a Damn. But the group needed architects, not industrial designers, so in the end I didn’t do anything other than donate some clothes, watch CNN, and feel frustrated and helpless. As the years went by, the question for me became, how can I do social and humanitarian design and still make a living? Where are the firms and companies that will pay designers a competitive wage to do this work? Do I have to completely redefine and scale back my aspirations, my career and my lifestyle? The need to make money and the reality of debt are facts that are undeniable for most of us and ones that often can prevent many of us from doing the work that our heart really calls us to do. To paraphrase Architecture for Humanity, how can I give a damn? That was what I was thinking in January 2010 when a massive earthquake rocked Haiti and leveled much of Portau-Prince. Again, like with Katrina the question arose of how can I help and use my skills as a designer? Then for the first time I was given an opportunity to engage and use my


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talents when John Hoke, IDSA, the vice president of design for Nike Inc., sent an email asking for designers with an architecture background to volunteer to help Haiti recover. I wasn’t an architect, but I showed up to the meeting anyway hoping I could be of use. It was at this moment that I began to find my answers to the how. Designers Know How Like many gatherings of creative people, this meeting quickly turned into a brainstorming session. I listened to all of the solutions being discussed, and after a long while I spoke up and said that we didn’t know what problems we were trying to solve. No one at the table had ever been to Haiti, and no one knew anything about the situation on the ground other than what was in media reports. I felt that we were making massive assumptions and would be air-dropping these solutions from 30,000 feet with no context. That first meeting had 40 people, the second had four. This is how I found myself booking a flight to Port-au-Prince with three other designers to see for ourselves what the situation was on the ground, meet with NGOs and talk to the people about their needs. Nike has no real business in Haiti, and I had no strategic reason to be taking the trip. I

remember wondering, how am I going to get my boss to approve the expenses? So with the conviction that this was the right thing to do and the decision that it would be better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission, I soon found myself driving through the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince looking to learn how Nike could use design thinking to engage in a meaningful and appropriate response to a disaster of this magnitude. Many things quickly became apparent during this visit. One was the utter destruction of the fabric of the community, as 1.3 million people were displaced and forced to live in tent cities among strangers. Another problem was the untenable and unsustainable way that people got their daily water: either through large water tanks trucked into the camps or by walking miles to a river for water that is filled with disease and bacteria (and soon was to be filled with cholera). I also saw the fierce love Haitians have for football (soccer), the importance it has in the community and the fact that the balls they own were either falling apart or handmade from things like a stuffed sock. One of the things designers do best is connect the dots between seemingly unrelated items like community,

water and sport. So after our visit we not only returned with great connections and insights but were able to conceptualize over a dozen real and necessary solutions that Nike could bring to the myriad of problems the Haitians faced. As we presented these ideas to senior leaders at Nike, their support was strong and their advice was to keep going. But how? None of us had any experience leading an effort like this or implementing concepts like these. And, we still had no official budget. One of our concept ideas was dubbed the Health and Happiness Kit (later known as the Gamechanger Bucket). It is a five-gallon bucket that provides health in the form of a water filter and happiness in the form of a ball. It was a concept I created on the ground in Haiti with Jon Rose, the founder of Waves for Water, in response to the tremendous need we saw for clean water, community and healing. Rose’s mission is to bring clean water to every person who needs it (in Haiti and around the world). Nike’s mission is to bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world. Together we would be able to make a large difference in a community very quickly and relatively inexpensively. Each water filter will clean enough water for 100 people and last for more than five years, and the kit will cost only 75 cents per person.

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Design Action, or Just Do It Rose and I agreed that the next step was to prototype the Gamechanger Bucket by doing a pilot distribution on the ground in Leogane, Haiti, the epicenter of the earthquake and a town that hadn’t received much aid because it was in the countryside outside of Port-au-Prince and difficult to get to. I knew going into this pilot distribution that to have a real impact, we’d have to eventually distribute thousands of these Gamechanger Buckets and attract tens of thousands of dollars of investment. To do this we’d have to inspire people and give them confidence in our solution; therefore, we decided that it was critical to bring a photographer and videographer with us to capture the emotion and essence of the experience. After booking another flight to Haiti, Rose and I handcarried enough water filters and soccer balls to make up 30 Gamechanger Buckets. Working in a disaster zone brings


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its own challenges and obstacles. The saying in Haiti is that if you get one thing accomplished in a day, you had a good day. We drove to Leogane, assembled the 30 kits, did two distributions at two separate villages and got back before the river flooded from the thunderstorm. That’s five things accomplished in one day. That day was a very good day in Haiti. I returned to Oregon with the mission to convey the impact and emotions of what we had just experienced. With the power of our video I was able to quickly secure a substantial investment from Nike and use its global reach as a platform to attract much more funding from small individual contributions through the website GlobalGiving. Sometimes the seemingly hardest step becomes the easiest if you’ve taken the right approach. Without prototyping and documenting the Gamechanger Bucket, I seriously doubt we would have been able to attract the support we did.

Port-au-Prince airport, I learned much more about the global water crisis and the related stats. More than 1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water, and 50 percent of the hospital beds in developing countries are full of patients who have water-borne illnesses. I’ve always believed that the Gamechanger Bucket had need and application in underserved communities all over the world, and so now I am working on scaling the project and doing distributions in places like India and Brazil in the upcoming months.

With funding to distribute 1,000 Gamechanger Buckets, we were off and running—or so I thought. We coordinated logistics and planned the distribution for January 2011, around the one-year remembrance of the earthquake. Then we encountered our largest obstacle to date when our shipment of the 1,000 soccer balls was held up at customs in Port-auPrince. It took the next four months and ultimately three teams on the ground in Port-au-Prince to secure the release of our shipment. Within weeks of this I was back in Haiti, and we launched the project with a large-scale distribution that gave 100,000 Haitians access to clean water. During the four months our shipment was held up at the

Moving Forward So what have I learned? I’ve learned you can do social design projects at the same time as doing commercial ones, especially if you’re lucky enough to work for a company that gives a damn. Nike’s commitment to a better world made the investments in Haiti and this project possible. I’ve also learned that as designers we already know how to do social design and respond to humanitarian crises and global disasters. We only need to put into practice the fundamentals of the design process (research, concept, prototype, invest, inspire, launch and scale), and apply these skills in social design just as we do in commercial design. We already know the answers to how; we only need to chart our own paths and just do it. The world is full of problems much like the ocean is full of plankton, and this can seem overwhelming and paralyzing. Remember, though, the words of Thoreau, “There is no such thing as an inconsequential act, only consequential inaction. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be.” So ask yourself this: What are we doing? How are we spending our energy and talents as designers? What do we want our legacy to be? How do we want to experience the profession of design, and who do we want to experience our designs? I believe that we can use our talents to become game-changing problem solvers and in the process work to create a better world. n

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o v e r co mi ng b ar r i e r s

Social Design


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By De Andrea Nichols deandrean@gmail.com n www.deandrean.com De Andrea Nichols is a multidisciplinary designer based in St. Louis, MO, and Memphis, TN. As a 2011 Project M Lab designer and co-founder of an emerging youth action tank, the Creative Catalysts Collaborative, she works with communities and organizations to instill youth-centered design pedagogy as means for social impact.



t all started with a story. Now it’s emerging into a league of social efforts to engage youth-driven design impact. Three years ago, when I entered my junior year of study in communications design at the Sam Fox School of Design and Art at Washington University in St. Louis, I expected that I would

join my peers in working for a design firm, advertising agency or in-house studio. Yet, life challenges and an insatiable passion for creative service and advocacy intervened and propelled me into a whirlwind journey in social design entrepreneurship. During that fall 2008 semester, I had barely begun my courses when a series of racially driven bias incidents threatened the spirit of diversity and inclusion the university was renowned for celebrating. I knew that I had to provide a voice in the matter. At the time, I was a student coordinator for multicultural education at the university and had become well known for visually sharing my opinions about campus issues through the arts. Yet, as a student new to design, I was curious how this field could address the communicative social challenges of this matter. I started with a poster. The Markers Incident recounted my experience as a passive witness to racism as a minority youth in rural Mississippi. Its iconic marker form mandated a call to action to combat hatred within our student community. I shared it on my personal blog. Unexpectedly, the workings of student allies and emerging social media platforms caused the poster to spread like wildfire throughout the campus. Students began requesting to have their stories shared through similar typographic and iconic posters. The works eventually became formalized as the Stories Project, which uses communication design and storytelling as tools to mobilize students toward social inclusion and action. The success of the Stories Project led me toward greater explorations and research into how various branches of design—graphic, interactive, environmental, Web and product—engage human-centered solutions to empower

other youth toward social action. The research catapulted into a student design manifesto, The Catalyst Paradigm, which with an extension into a shared online manual outlined seven intuitive steps by which fellow young creatives could use the design-thinking process to impact change in any area. As The Catalyst Paradigm found its place among the student body, interested peers and I merged our works and began the formation of what two years later is developing as the Creative Catalysts Collaborative. Living as a Young Creative Catalyst Initially, it was never my intention to pursue social design or entrepreneurship as a career path. As a youth, my story began in the rural Mississippi Delta. My community was segregated by a railroad track that divided whites from blacks and rich from poor. Many homes were mere shotgun flats built on four concrete pillars. My family, headed by my mother alone, was just another among many that suffered in the cycle of generational poverty and entrapment. Design was not a field perceived as an accessible career path for African-Americans. With the caliber of education I earned as a full-merit scholar at Washington University, I was expected to secure an occupation in corporate business, the civilian service corps or education with design as mere hobby. This sentiment was echoed by the lack of opportunities that allowed new graduates to professionally engage in social design strategy.

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Yet my fervor for design would not die, and the questions, urgency and ideas I had about creative social engagement never ceased. So I did not allow myself to wait. I did not accept that I was too young, and I refused all suggested deference to other professional fields. Instead, with no initial financial backing, I levied free and low-cost resources to fuel my entrepreneurial approach to engaging the social design field. Creating Ideas That Matter Since its inception in November 2010, peers of the Creative Catalysts Collaborative have worked individually and collectively to develop various efforts that use the design fields and art to build creative economies to address social injustices in our respective communities. Among my individual efforts, COMMON Hoops and D*Serve focused on American youth and under-served populations.


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COMMON Hoops developed as an output of my participation in the Project M Lab/COMMON Project that was hosted in Greensboro, AL, during the summer of 2011. Working alongside five fellow young designers and creatives, I found myself face-to-face with a town that suffered from disastrous tornado damage, poverty and staggering unemployment. In engaging with various community members, it was through the youth that we found our focus. Young people desired a sense of purpose, and they wanted it through jobs and recreation. With the local high school basketball team’s victory in the state championship earlier in the year, we found a focus on sports. And because many neighborhood parks were in disrepair and lacked basketball goals, we knew we had a great opportunity to prototype and engineer a product that could provide a solution. D*Serve was sparked by a similar beginning. I returned to my hometown of Cleveland, MS, in December 2010 to

learn about new challenges faced by minority youth, many who lived in the same neighborhoods in which I had been raised. In a 2010 Community Assessment, the town’s Junior Auxiliary reported that “there are no state or district programs to assist underprivileged children” in the county, and over 30 percent of the minority youth population live in poverty. This shook my soul. Thus, receiving support from family and community ambassadors and in partnership with Bolivar County Community Action Agency members and the Chamber of Commerce, I made it my mission to return to Cleveland during the summer of 2011 and live and work with community members to gain further insight into current community needs. During that time, we built relationships with prospective sponsors, sought ambassadors to different areas of the community and began recruiting a team of designers from the local college to create a prototype that would use the unassisted, underprivileged children as the beacons of change. The result was D*Serve: Design + Service in Underserved Communities, which uses concepts of guerilla aid, design and game mechanics to allow youth to discover and develop community solutions to pressing issues. With each of these recent efforts I have co-launched, barriers to entry prevailed as the hardest challenges. In working in rural American communities, hesitation can often arise if members feel threatened or victimized when outsiders enter to address local social issues. Thus, while attempting to install our first COMMON Hoop backboard into one community park in Greensboro, NC, elders of the neighborhood rushed to divert our efforts. Beyond being a group of primarily privileged Caucasian youth in a poor black neighborhood, no one had spoken to these elders and gatekeepers to learn why the goals were missing. To them, we’d appeared without notice. We had assumed that the goals were a privilege that the community could not financially afford. Yet in building relationships with our opponents, we learned that the goals were missing not because of financial need but because of the crime, disruption and lewd behavior they yielded from those who used them. This awareness and engagement allowed us to rethink the integration process of COMMON Hoops, allowing a slower timeline for installation that communicates early in the process with neighbors living around targeted parks.

The barriers were much different for D*Serve. Because we communicated with leaders and community members months before piloting the initiative and learned of the areas they wanted to be addressed, the effort garnered more transparency, welcome and trust from its participants. Instead, hesitation emerged because of the concern that the project would stir up trouble about the issue of race. In its conceptualization, D*Serve aimed to merge minority and privileged youth in dialogue and action that could bring great harmony to disparate community bodies. Yet, among older citizens, such interaction would seemingly disrupt cultural norms that had been accepted for earlier generations. Nonetheless, through continued communication with community gatekeepers, D*Serve received the trust and nurturing needed to work in sensitivity to these conditions. Sharing a United, Epic Story Beyond the development challenges and barriers, demographic diversity within the design field definitely provides its share of social challenges. When entering the graphic design industry after school, my young age often brought assumptions of a lack of experience, while being African-American can sometimes feel like being an anomaly. With few faces that look like mine, and many background stories that are not similar, a short phase of social inquiry regarding merits and interests occurs to assess my fit. However, I have never felt unwelcomed in the design field, and my work quality has always been acknowledged first. For this, I am thankful. With my fire for community development, business and social entrepreneurship as a designer, I have found my niche in social design and garnered solidarity with like-minded mentors and peers. Tackling so many social barriers of age, geography, race and class in my work, I remain grateful that they never transcend into my working relationships. Moving forward with the Creative Catalysts Collaborative and my various individual efforts, I would definitely encourage minority and underprivileged youth to learn and be exposed to opportunities in the product, communications and social design fields. With the vast array of social issues challenging our communities, diverse stories and faces are necessary. With collaboration and continued support with industry leaders and emerging creatives alike, we can definitely continue to share a united and epic story in design. n

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Designing Empowerment


ccording to the United Nations, “women who contribute half of the world’s population by virtue of an accident of birth, perform two-thirds of the world’s work, receive one-tenth of its income and own less than one-hundredth of its property.” If women had more representation, the fabric

of our society would be significantly different. Design has the potential to change the world for the better if we focus on the right issues. We have to infuse our academic curriculum with projects that expose students to the problem-solving capabilities of design. Designing Empowerment, an initiative of the Industrial Design Program at Virginia Tech, is one such step in this direction.


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By Akshay Sharma, IDSA akshay@vt.edu n www.id4learning.com Akshay Sharma teaches in the Industrial Design Department at Virginia Tech. He is interested in exploring ways of using design as a catalyst for the empowerment of women, especially in the the developing world. He would like to create a focus on these pressing issues in the design curriculum and build an interdisciplinary research team to move the initiative further.

Can design be used as a catalyst to alleviate poverty by empowering women? How do we do this? By working directly with the end user? By looking for alternative ways to create a more efficient solution? The first step with designing empowerment was to research and carefully analyze programs that have shown some measure of success in alleviating poverty. I looked at education, charity and financial aid programs run by national and international organizations and sought to understand their impact in the lives of poor people. Although the intent of such efforts is unquestionably pure, their ground-level success leaves a lot to be desired. The two case studies below, Barefoot College and micro-financing, are examples of programs that have shown significant results in bringing positive change at the ground level. Both are women-centered.

maintain these cookers at the highest professional levels. These workers are mostly women, and they also train new students from Afghanistan, Sub-Saharan African countries and countries in the Indian subcontinent. The Barefoot College Village Dentist is a program run by two semiliterate women who received six months of training from a visiting dentist from Germany. Today the clinic provides dental services to approximately 30,000 residents in the area. It also runs awareness clinics for local schools and communities. Though the treatment is very affordable, it is free for those who can’t pay for it.

Examples of Empowerment Initiatives The Barefoot College was established in 1975 in the village of Tilonia, Rajasthan, India. Its primary goal has been to provide better opportunities for the local population through education and skill development. It is a case study in the strength of conviction, inspired learning and decentralization of power. The campus itself is a great example of participatory architecture, where the local community was involved at every stage of the design process. They designed it, built it, and now they use it. Barefoot College also won the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Excellence in Architecture in 1985, which it respectfully declined (a story for another article). The campus is run on solar energy generated by solar panel systems manufactured by Barefoot solar engineers. On another part of the campus three Barefoot engineers are busy manufacturing solar cookers, which are used not only on the campus but also in day care centers in the region. These cookers are complex devices that require an in-depth understanding of solar trajectory to achieve proper setup and optimal performance. The three engineers can barely read and write, but they can manufacture, install and

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Another example of empowerment are self-help groups (SHGs) engaged in microfinancing. SHGs empower the poor by providing access to financial services, such as credit, savings and money transfers. Fifty-two million people living in poverty have benefited from microfinancing, with a loan repayment rate of close to 99 percent, according to a 2007 World Bank report. The beneficiaries are those who survive on less than $2 a day. Research has shown that microfinancing impacts communities only when it is women-centered. Microfinancing has provided women with the opportunity to make financial planning a part of their lives. It has also provided them financial tools that enable them to use their income and savings to break the cycle of poverty. I studied the NGO-facilitated SHGs that are engaged in microfinancing in rural Rajasthan. An NGO representative explains the advantages of microfinancing to a group of women who believe in the long-term benefits without really understanding the details. The members join the program because of a mutual understanding among themselves, a trust in the system of microfinancing, and a desire to make their and their families’ lives better. These observations gave me an understanding of the process from the end-


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user’s perspective and revealed a major design opportunity for a pilot project. The members’ lack of understanding about the process of running an SHG leaves them vulnerable to failure and is responsible for the failure of about 15–20 percent of SHGs in the first year. The primary driver for the members is savings, but the real growth engine for the group is the intra-group loans. SHG members can get loans at half the market rate, and the interest they pay on the loan goes back to the group, resulting in a significant increase in the group’s income over time. The net income in the first year of SHG operation is about 25–30 percent of their total savings. If the group uses most of their savings to provide intragroup loans, the interest earned on these loans quickly translates into exponential growth in the net income. In the seventh year of operation, a group can have an approximately 65 percent return on its total savings. NGOs have proven inadequate in educating SHGs in a manner that makes sense to the semiliterate or the illiterate user. The Virginia Tech industrial design program decided to address financial literacy through the pilot projects undertaken by the Designing Empowerment initiative.

The Designing Empowerment Initiative In fall 2009, I completed my research in rural Rajasthan and returned to work with a specific schedule in mind. I shared my findings with a team of six industrial design students. Sitting around a white table in the industrial design studio at Virginia Tech, we discussed project ideas, all of which addressed issues of social relevance and empowerment through design. This is how Designing Empowerment was born. So far we have completed five projects; three are in the final stages of development and are scheduled to be field tested by NGOs in India. The methodology used is very similar to a design project in a studio, but the projects present a possibility for making a difference in someone’s life. Thanks to improved communication networks, it is possible to get a good understanding of issues that are important for users in other cultures. Besides the data collected about the functioning of SHGs, the team looked at online resources to better understand the process. One of the team members had experience working at the Grameen Foundation in Bangladesh.

Since the pilot project was only five weeks long, we had to innovate at every step of the process. One thing we decided at the beginning, which helped us immensely, was to accurately re-create the conditions on the ground for our students. The students had to memorize their names in a foreign language, so they could have the experience of knowing what their names look like but also be able to read the script. The currency notes were color coded, and they had to figure out the denominations by identifying the colors alone. For idea testing, we had a blanket ban on any text or language-based instruction; all steps had to be performed visually. Bahikhaata is one of the ongoing Designing Empowerment projects. It is an engaging, interactive language-independent system that focuses on educating the end user about the long-term benefits of financial planning by providing them tools to become self-reliant users. The present form of Bahikhaata is inspired by a traditional board game borrowed from the local culture. Made out of cloth, it can be compared to a 5-by-5-foot cross that is 12 inches wide. Its shape, which is not unidirectional, encourages participation

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by members. The present form is the result of a series of explorations and prototype testing done in India for some key aspects: initial acceptance and ease of learning. The idea of increased savings was introduced to four SHGs consisting of 15 members each. Increased savings excited the fairly newer users, making them eager to experiment with the new system, even when it meant more work. The groups who agreed to test the prototype simulated five meetings using the prototype to keep track of financial transactions. The prototypes were tested for physical characteristics, like the size of the pockets, the ease of understanding the structure and the overall usability in maintaining a visual account of financial transactions. The format of the prototype allowed the group accountant to transfer details into a standard SHG register. It also facilitated better participation in the meetings and gave the members a sense of ownership. Testing results were favorable. Members expressed enthusiasm about learning the system and were eager to adopt it for their group meetings. Three NGOs in India adopted the Bahikhaata system, and it will be a part of their training program for new SHGs. The present version has evolved from a simple visual bookkeeping system designed to reduce dependence on the group accountant into an interactive financial literacy system that is language independent. It allows for an immersive experience and provides a simple and easy way to understand the concept of interest. A PDF version of the Bahikhaata process manual is available for free download at www.id4learning.com. The design team is working on an electronic version as well, adaptable for use on a computer or a tablet. It will provide customization and scalability options for the system, further enhancing the efficiency of the system from the NGO facilitators point of view. The successful adoption of this system by organizations in India has also encouraged the design team to pursue other projects related to empowerment. K-yan, an integrated multimedia device, was first developed in 2003–2004 by IL&FS, a multinational corporation in India, in collaboration with IIT Bombay. Designed for group learning in schools and other educational com-

munities, this integrated device furnishes an instructor with easy-to-use tools that present multimedia content to a large group in an interactive and engaging manner. In 2010, Virginia Tech’s Industrial Design Department was approached by ILFS to develop a new visual language for K-yan. The team, composed of students and faculty from both the design and engineering departments, explored various potential configurations and combinations to create a compact and portable learning device. Special attention was given to such aspects as usability in dusty environments, cable management and ease of maintenance. The team also reflected on the exact relationship between function and the overall form of the product: Should it be a projector or a computer? Does it need an identity of its own? In the end, through an exploratory process supported with quick prototyping and testing, the team settled on a form inspired by a book that complements the way a user would set it up. IL&FS has decided to adopt the recommendations provided by the design team. This project looked at the unique usage scenario in India, with 25 official languages and 2,500 dialects. How do you even start to design an interface that can potentially work across cultures? We looked at a book as a universal symbol of learning and knowledge and assessed the significance of an open versus a closed book. We explored what it means to different stakeholders to open a book and tried to create a form factor that drew its inspiration from a hard-bound book. This visual language also provides a significantly shorter learning curve to get the device turned on and usable. The act of opening the book would turn the device on, no power button necessary. To shut it down, simply close the book. If the same device had been designed for a market where a power button is synonymous with turning something on, our approach would have probably resulted in a slightly different solution.

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On the Horizon Presently, interdisciplinary student teams are working on projects that are redefining the idea of concept to impact: n

A cellphone charging system for areas with an irregular supply of electricity.


Using cellphones to increase the vaccination rate of children in developing countries by empowering community health-care workers and families.


An anthropometric data collection system to be used by the Jaipur Foot Organization to collect accurate measurements of Indian feet to create better prosthetics for users in India.


A new version of Bahikhaata that incorporates a software application to support the work of NGO facilitators and create a better learning experience for SHG members under training.

The Designing Empowerment initiative challenges students to learn about a foreign culture, conduct field research and contact the user group that is in desperate need of these solutions. From the start, I was very clear about the impact such projects can have in an academic setting. They also need to have clear and measurable benefits for students. The projects we have undertaken so far come with very strict constraints and limitations that are generally not associated with the design process alone. Because we are designing for cultures that we know very little about, the process demands new and innovative ways of conducting research and making the best of available resources. We have done that by cleverly simulating the conditions on the ground, like making the students work with a language that they cannot read or write and making them identify the most basic action to turn something on. Another important aspect of the projects has been collaborating with individuals who are working with the end users on a daily basis. We share every new development with an expert on the ground. The risk of not addressing the right questions can result in a loss of valuable time and resources. We have also enrolled students from institutions in India so that when the proposals are being tested and need some minor changes this work can be addressed in India, rather than waiting for the next semester’s project to begin. These studio projects have given students an enriched experience, helping them develop a much better understanding of the design process and the importance of decision making when they measure everything against so many parameters. Later on, when they are working on projects with fewer constraints, they will perform at a higher level. n


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By Ryan Eder, IDSA reder@prioritydesigns.com

Ryan Eder is a senior industrial designer at Priority Designs. He is also founder and chief creative officer of IncludeFitness, a startup focused on providing accessible fitness equipment for those with physical disabilities.



IDEA to Startup

s designers we have the ability to transform simple observations into seeds for new products, companies and initiatives. Every day there are amazing ideas that should be introduced to the market but never make it. That shouldn’t be. We have ideas that can improve lives, and we

have a responsibility to try to get those ideas implemented. We shouldn’t just be for hire. We should all be owning our own businesses! These were some of the thoughts that started to form four years ago after I stood on stage at the 2007 IDEA ceremony. I had won IDEA Gold, Best in Show and People’s Choice awards for my concept The Access, a piece of inclusive fitness equipment that caters to those with physical disabilities. At that time I was a year into my career. I remember feeling honored, but at the same time I felt an overwhelming responsibility to push The Access forward and try to get it into the market. Where to Start? The 2007 IDEA recognition was an amazing springboard into my career and opened up numerous opportunities. Floods of emails and phone calls came in expressing interest in The Access. Instead of accepting the awards and moving on, I tried to formulate a plan to use the IDEA recognition as a catalyst to commercialize The Access and help people. The problem was, I had no idea where to start nor what it entailed. How does a lone designer turn a

product concept into a tangible business? I was to learn that it comes with numerous obstacles and challenges and the need to have passion and perseverance. Creating a startup is similar to solving a puzzle; it helps to tackle one piece at a time. I first formed a company, IncludeFitness, to launch the product. I attended numerous entrepreneurial boot camps, startup seminars, networking events and conferences. I shared product renderings, booklets and promotional documents to communicate my vision. I collected nuggets of information to formulate my plan and to gain insight into what is needed to build a product-based company from scratch. Unfortunately, The Access is not a simple product. It involves numerous mechanisms, ergonomic concerns and a long development cycle. In order to commercialize it, I was going to need a significant amount of money. In late 2008, crowd funding was not prevalent, government funding was nonexistent without miles of stipulations, I didn’t have wealthy family members and the entire country was falling

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o v e r c o ming bar r ier s

into a deep recession. The only potential avenue was to pursue traditional angel/venture capital funding. I quickly learned that this route has a laundry list of requirements and is quite challenging to navigate. With a product-focused company, intellectual property is needed to gain interest and to raise money from traditional investors. As a precautionary measure before the awards went public, I filed a provisional patent, which enabled me to seek funding. As time went by and interest grew, I pursued a full utility patent. While many would say that a patent is only as strong as your pockets are deep to protect it, it proved vital to raising venture capital. Investors want a return on investment. While returns can come from revenue, in many scenarios it also comes from eventually selling intellectual property. The more options, the better chances of receiving funding. To save on cash, I opted to do all the patent drawings myself. Three years, one refusal and $22,000 later, the patent was issued in May 2010. Believe me, it was a hard pill to swallow but well worth the expense. Forming a network was vital and later provided countless lifelines. Connections made at the IDSA’s international conference were a perfect place to start. Through various introductions, I was invited to present IncludeFitness to the LiveWell Collaborative board meeting at the University of Cincinnati. During this presentation, I shared my vision for accessible fitness equipment, my passion to help those in need and my deep need for assistance to make it happen. Two key players were in the audience: Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Cincytech, a startup incubator and investment company in Cincinnati. After the presentation, both approached me and offered to help. This was a testament to how powerful storytelling can be and was the launching point for IncludeFitness. I was later invited to pitch to various Cincytech members. After my first presentation, I was immediately told that I would not get very far without a business plan. I had never seen a business plan let alone knew how to draft one. I felt a small sense of panic. I researched grants and competed with other startups to qualify for Cincytech’s Imaging Grant, a $20,000 grant to hire a business consultant and develop


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the first draft of a business plan. After several presentations, IncludeFitness received the grant, and I hired a consultant for five months. Together, we developed a high-level strategy to pitch to investors. A concern was also expressed that the actual product did not exist yet. I had product renderings and animations, but no prototype. No one wanted to invest in vaporware. Through the seeds planted during the Livewell presentation, P&G offered to assist in finding a way to produce a working prototype. It invested $35,000 and launched a two-year collaborative with the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering, P&G’s Simulation Center and IncludeFitness. I had a team of 35 senior engineering students to analyze, refine and build a proof-of-concept prototype of The Access. Year one was spent building CAD databases and scale models. Year two involved refinement and the fabrication of a functional prototype. This prototype, nicknamed Megatron, would later be instrumental in growing the company and gaining the confidence of future investors. Who’s Coming with Me? With the business plan draft and a working prototype in hand, I met with other investment groups. While IncludeFitness had made a lot of progress, I instantly hit another roadblock. I was informed that we would not be receiving any further funding without experienced business talent on the team. Apparently no one wanted to invest in a 26-year-old designer with no previous experience in launching or running a company. It seemed impossible to lure experienced talent to a startup that had no funding or revenue. Fortunately, another incubator in Cincinnati, BIOSTART, agreed to provide IncludeFitness with an investment to help hire a partner to run the business side. I conducted interviews for four months trying to find the right fit. Conversations were a challenge. I was a green founder interviewing several established 50-plus year olds about their qualifications to join a design-led company. Without a doubt, some candidates were uncomfortable working for a young founder, but others believed in the initiative and wanted to be a part of a team dedicated to helping others. In May 2010, I found a business partner, Jeff Grainger. He had prior experience in both starting companies and raising capital, thus was a great asset to the company. We decided to scrap the initial business plan and start from scratch. As we built the new plan, I found myself analyzing The Access in a completely different context. No longer was I solely concerned about finishes, graphics or money shots. We began to build distribution models and capital access plans and assess equity arrangements and financial models. Intimidating, yet exciting.

We also reached out to find collaborators and advisers to add to our team. I would describe the vision and brand, like in previous presentations, but this time my business partner would discuss the financials and strategy. Together we were able to bring in significant talent from the medical, fitness and business worlds who shared a similar passion and wanted to make a difference. The process of raising capital has to be one of the biggest obstacles for any young startup. To date we have raised just under $500,000. However, the process of raising money takes thick skin and is a very long, challenging, unrelenting effort. We were quick to discover that IncludeFitness is considered a tweener company to our local investors. Typical investments in Ohio target health-care or tech startups. IncludeFitness was neither, yet a little bit of both, hence the term tweener. While we had a shorter timeline and smaller monetary needs than health-care companies, our returns weren’t as lucrative. Alternatively, our timeline and budget was significantly greater than competing tech companies. This made it very hard to find the right fit. Over the span of 15 months, we gave over 40 different presentations. Some groups gave us 45 minutes to share our story and plans. One presentation allotted eight minutes. The variety of guidelines taught me how to be efficient, purposeful and flexible. In August 2010, we started a conversation with an angel group in Cincinnati. The day of our pitch we were told that the group wanted to invest and that due diligence would move forward. It felt like we had made it. Months went by with few emails, unanswered phone calls and inconclusive meetings. In March 2011, the group ultimately decided that it was no longer interested. This was crippling. We had made dozens of pitches to other groups under the pretense that we were closing a round of funding with this angel group. When that domino fell, so did all the others. It left us at a crossroads. Simultaneously, the funding I used to pay my business partner had run dry. We had to make a decision about whether we were going to quit or give it one last push. We agreed to give it a couple more months. If there were no further developments, then we would pull the plug. We sent emails and updates to our network, extended networks and their networks trying to find a lifeline. By this time, tremendous success stories were happening with the Kickstarter platform. We found this very inspiring and thought that maybe we could utilize crowd sourcing to launch our company. After preparing a proposal and submitting it for review, we were rejected because our project did not clearly fit the parameters. Again, we were a tweener. We were eventually introduced to another investment group associated with the Ohio Department of Development. We pitched our company in April 2011 and felt a strong synergy. In early September, IncludeFitness was approved for a sizable investment. While many would celebrate this accomplishment, it came with the stipulation of raising more funds.

This development takes us to the current day. We are still actively pitching to groups for additional funding to launch the commercial development of The Access. Despite the setbacks, we continue to press forward with our initiative and seek the right partners to make it happen. We are very close to reaching our goals, but it has taken more time and effort than I ever imagined. Moving Forward Starting a company can be a tremendously rewarding, educational and an exciting experience. It can also be very frustrating and stressful. As designers, I feel we are in an excellent position to be the next generation of business owners. It’s easy to find reasons not to do it. But I strongly encourage making the leap. I pursued IncludeFitness to feed my passion for helping people. I was in a unique position to enable those with various physical disabilities to stay active and live long, healthy lives. While I’ve faced numerous obstacles in starting this company, they are nothing compared to the obstacles people with disabilities face every day. The experience of IncludeFitness has broadened my perspective on product development, business and the context in which products are launched. This process has been challenging, but we are excited and prepared to move forward. We know that if we are successful in raising the money, the real challenge will then begin. n

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By Ann-Marie Conrado, IDSA aconrado@nd.edu Ann-Marie Conrado is an assistant professor in industrial design at the University of Notre Dame and was the inaugural 2008 IDSA Young Educator of the Year. Her work brings students to Nepal to investigate how design can impact social and humanitarian concerns in collaboration with the Hope Initiative, the nonprofit organization she founded. Photo: Jason Jobes

Design for Fair Trade Artisans

Crafting Economic


ocial design is everywhere, in books and blogs, in competitions and coalitions, and in most student portfolios.

Despite the best of intentions, as social design achieves critical mass, a backlash is inevitable and yet necessary, forcing practitioners to address difficult questions. What are alternative ways of realizing the power and promise of design, and what can we learn from the interaction with those we


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Charlotte Lux/Stephen Pennington

hope to serve?

Opportunity difficult follow-through needed to bring an idea to fruition, from fundraising to a longterm on-the-ground presence. These criticisms underscore more theoretical concerns about the power inequalities between benefactors and beneficiaries, which are easily overlooked in the impulse and desire to do good. In post-colonial societies where the past is very much present, the presumption and arrogance inherent in these relationships can recall the colonial and missionary zeal to educate and civilize. But to paint all humanitarian design initiatives with the same broad strokes would deny the spectrum of interventions that well-meaning good designers undertake. Over the last decade of working with handicraft artisans in Nepal, I have experienced opportunities for Western designers to offer vital knowledge and skill sets within the framework of developing economies without much of the problematic baggage noted above. In sharing my work with the Nepalese and the more recent work of my students at Notre Dame, I hope to inspire designers to tackle alternative areas of engagement that may be not only more productive but more appropriate as well. Jason Jobes

Last summer, design journalist Bruce Nussbaum, H/IDSA writing in Fast Company, asked provocatively “Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism?” As the proverbial pitchforks came out, he reflected on the firestorm by suggesting that he was offering “a series of questions—not statements—to people doing wonderful work helping others.” But as David Stairs wrote in an earlier piece, “Arguing With Success,” on the Design-Altruism-Project website, “There are certainly more questions that need asking than the ones who believe design will save the world are willing to ask.” This is a controversy with a long history and one that design is a newcomer to—a condemnation of what some perceive as the inherent arrogance and paternalism of development aid. As a number of high-profile humanitarian design projects stumble and come under increasing opposition, notably from our design counterparts in developing countries, these criticisms resonate despite the torrent of indignant responses. Are Western designers qualified to design solutions for cultures and communities vastly different from our own? Or should there be, as Wes Janz questioned in Stairs’ article, “some boundaries, some active awareness that we are unqualified, or unfit, or unable to work borderlessly?” There are a number of issues questioned by critics at home and abroad. The most forceful criticism postulates a nearly impossible-to-bridge divide between the haves and the have-nots, stressing the ability of outsiders to empathize with the magnitude of adversity and volatility faced by those in many parts of the globe. The divide is exacerbated by a parachute mentality, with designers spending far too little time immersing themselves in the communities they intend to serve. The necessary sustained commitment integral to a project’s success is often grossly underestimated. Furthermore, some argue that there is more interest in designing—and to an extent talking and writing—than in the

Handicraft Production and Fair Trade As unique expressions of cultural identity, traditional craftsmanship and local materials, handicrafts offer great economic opportunities for the most disadvantaged, especially micro and small cooperatives and enterprises. Advancements have commercialized handicraft production, turning the industry into a major form of employment in developing countries and a significant portion of these countries’ export economies. In many countries, it constitutes the secondlargest sector of rural employment after agriculture. While handicrafts are often associated with fair trade, it’s unfortunate that only a very small portion of the flow of handicrafts to Western markets is certified as fair trade, limiting its potential impact on disadvantaged communities.

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Colin Hofman, Stephanie Sohn, Ryan Geraghty, Audrey Negro

overcoming barriers


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Generally defined as “an equitable trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect,” fair trade seeks to offer better conditions for disadvantaged workers and to recognize their rights. Fair trade handicrafts are primarily sold through nonprofit channels such as Ten Thousand Villages, SERRV and Oxfam, many of which grew out of religious affiliations. The movement traces its roots to World War II when missionaries encouraged European refugees to use their craft skills to support themselves. But the original emphasis on handicrafts has been overshadowed in recent years as commodities, such as coffee and cocoa, now dominate fair trade annual revenues. At the forefront of the fair trade movement in Nepal, the Association for Craft Producers (ACP) was formed in 1984 by Meera Bhattarai as a nonprofit umbrella organization offering marketing, management, design and production services to low-income disadvantaged craft producers. The group began with just 38 producers, five staff members and three skill categories. Today it employs over 1,400 artisans (90 percent of which are female), 60 staff members and 22 skill categories and operates from a 45,000-square-foot facility in Kathmandu. Committed to uplifting the lives of producers, it offers benefits, including child education, medical and emergency allowances, a retirement fund, performance rewards, a savings program, a producers’ alliance, maternity and paternity leave, health camps and informal education. In keeping with the tenants of fair trade, ACP is also dedicated to environmental sustainability in its products and production methods, using rainwater harvesting, chemical retreatment and sustainable materials. Through the leadership of Bhattarai, an internationally renowned social activist, ACP has organized under-educated rural women throughout Nepal’s mountainous terrain into a capable, highly-skilled, reliable workforce. To commercialize and scale its work product while meeting global quality standards, ACP centralizes pre- and post-production in its Kathmandu facility. Undertaking the sourcing and preparation of raw materials as well as finishing requirements ensures consistency across multiple producer groups. This approach has transformed a traditionally undervalued segment of the population into a formidable workforce. And in the process, ACP has stabilized rural villages by discouraging outward migration to urban areas and abroad and has afforded the primarily female artisans an economic base to provide for themselves and their families. The primary problem limiting the growth of the handicraft industry, both commercial and fair trade, is staying abreast of the rapidly changing consumer and design trends in end markets. Indigenous or traditional designs based on local artistic heritage dominate the handicraft sector. While a market for authentic crafts endures, it remains limited in its appeal and integration into the contemporary lifestyle. This sector has experienced growth by combining contemporary and traditional motifs in a style often known as global design. However, only the commercial sector, with its access to the trend and design departments of the large multina-

Colin Hofman Jason Jobes

tional retailers that it serves, can effectively new products. But difficulties in traveling compete. Fair trade organizations working abroad limit their knowledge to that gained through nonprofit retail channels are at a from buyer interaction. To date, our most disadvantage. While ethical considerations successful collaboration is a simple design are part of the value equation of buying for a floating copper tea light inspired by fair trade, in the area of home and lifethe lotus flower. This humble design interstyle accessories they remain secondary vention debuted in 2003 and has since to design and price. How can a producer rejuvenated the coppersmithing commuin a rural village living in a tin-roofed, mudnity of western Nepal, which was on the plastered home design home décor and verge of dying out due to the last decade’s Conrado with students Colin Hofman, lifestyle accessories for a consumer living Andrew McBride and Edel Crowe. dramatic increase in the price of copper. in New York, London or Tokyo? Beyond The number of coppersmithing artisans fleeting design trends or color palettes is a fundamental in the area has since grown fourfold. Bir Bahadur BK, a lack of understanding of the standard of living embodied by coppersmith lead from western Nepal said, “Ann-Marie has today’s global consumers. Most simply cannot imagine the brought so many changes to the kinds of products we make modern lifestyle we lead, let alone the subtleties of design and it has helped us to grow and give jobs and opportunity that separate the good from the tacky or truly awful. Without for our youth to stay in the villages.” key consumer knowledge, the artisans’ high level of skill and mastery of traditional techniques remains underutilized in Student Involvement the global market. After joining the faculty at Notre Dame in 2006, I recognized From 2001 until 2006, I volunteered with ACP on a the mutually beneficial pedagogical opportunity that my work regular basis, spending over two years in Nepal between with the Nepalese offered. The first group of five design and stints in the US working as a design consultant. I worked studio art majors arrived in Nepal in the summer of 2007 with ACP’s small design team, young talented individuals to work with ACP for 10 weeks. Seven students followed with fine-art and craft backgrounds. They are responsible for in 2008, and three students each year in 2010 and 2011. translating buyer concepts into production and developing As student interest has grown along with a commitment

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Jason Jobes

overcoming barriers

to smaller group sizes, the selection process has become increasingly competitive. Of the participants to date, eight have been graphic designers, six industrial designers, two photographers, one printmaker and one architect. Half of the students have been graduating seniors whose experience and maturity have been vital to the success of the program, both in productivity and in their influence on their younger peers. In 2009, the project evolved from its informal roots in collaboration with the university’s Center for Social Concerns’ International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP), which places students in social-justice service experiences around the world. The ISSLP program not only provides logistical support but offers a valuable semester-long preparatory course for cultural immersion. Students also take independent study hours to initiate preliminary design trending and product development. They research home and personal accessory product trends, focusing on handcrafted items within the ACP skills categories, resulting in a trend book divided into materials and product categories and additional segments on children and holiday trends. It is a vital resource for the students once they are in Nepal but also is an annual deliverable to the ACP design team to aid in developing its own design capacity. Students are also responsible for identifying skill categories of interest and initiating preliminary design conceptualizations. Lastly, students study the Nepalese language and culture to enhance interaction with the artisans and to influence their design approach.


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Students spend 10 weeks in Nepal divided into two weeks of orientation and rural immersion and eight weeks of project work with ACP. Once on site, they must familiarize themselves with the facility and workflow, the artisans and the skill categories of interest. As part of the prototyping process, each skill category is represented by a team of in-house artisans who refines and develops production prototypes before their release to producer networks. While resources are dedicated to helping students succeed, they must learn to navigate a complicated system of cultural idiosyncrasies and competing priorities in order to be effective in the organization. Students begin developing concepts, investigating motif development and exploring form in both sketching and the physical manipulation of typical materials, such as structural felt. They mine Nepal’s artistic and cultural heritage for inspiration in developing products that highlight the country’s rich traditions and iconography, from Hindu motifs to Bodhi leaves. As students refine selected themes, they investigate how a specific design language can be expanded across a line of complementary products. History has shown that student productivity is heavily weighted to the latter half of the summer. Students accomplish as much in the last two weeks as in the prior six weeks. The first weeks are spent settling in and learning the ropes. They work to understand the constraints and opportunities afforded by the various craft techniques and materials. Students also inevitably experience a number of setbacks, with design intent often lost in translation. The importance of clear, precise visual-

Reflections The project has resulted in significant sales growth and more economic opportunities for a greater number of disadvantaged individuals. And it has done so in a manner that avoids the primary criticisms directed at social design interventions. It is providing critical knowledge that artisans lack to effectively compete on the global market—knowledge that Western designers uniquely possess. Our students stay a sufficient length of time to be effective and valuable to the organization we aim to serve. And the academic setting offers a more permanent, stable and ongoing intervention that allows the participants to change but the impact to continue and flourish with each infusion of new ideas and talent. The human instinct to do good must be matched by a critical assessment of not only our limitations but where our strengths as Western designers truly lie. And in the collaboration, what are the lessons for us? ACP’s model of distributed productivity and sustainable production offers alternatives that may address many of our own problems and concerns. Informed by the belief that design can impact an industry, a community, a life, we must work to craft a more meaningful contribution to the common good that transcends all borders. But we must also recognize that we have as much to learn from those we seek to serve as they do from us. n Megan Malley

Jason Jobes

izations and contour drawings, along with physical prototypes when possible, quickly becomes evident. The students work iteratively with the artisans to develop prototypes of the students’ designs. Knowledge flows in both directions, with students learning how designs must accommodate production and cost constraints and artisans learning about new products and trends. As the summer wears on, students show exponential progress and are delighted to see their ideas and concepts come to fruition. Their experience is capped with an exhibition, presentation and open house for ACP management, producer liaisons, buyers and dignitaries. ACP has been very enthusiastic about the collaboration. Bhattarai stated that “the annual program between ACP and Notre Dame has been an event we very much look forward to because the students recharge and energize our team with new ideas and techniques. Through this collaboration, our designers get the opportunity to discuss, share and explore new possibilities.” Sunita Maharjan, ACP’s design officer, commented that “working directly with the students is a great opportunity to learn about trends and products over there in a practical way that I could not get from the many trainings and workshops held here.” Likewise, producers are very appreciative and comment effusively on the impact the new designs have had on their businesses.

In both comments and sales, buyers have been equally enthusiastic about the continued collaboration and the resulting designs. For example, student designs from 2010 have already resulted in early export sales of approximately $11,600 with similar figures from ACP’s domestic retail channel, a significant amount in a country with an annual per capita GDP of $427. Another positive indicator is product interest and sample request rates. Of 24 selected designs presented to buyers, 15 items received requests for samples, for a positive response rate of 62.5 percent. Furthermore, student designs did extremely well with buyers who have previously made inquiries with ACP but haven’t made purchases. Student work constituted the vast bulk of new business generated in the last year, expanding ACP’s reach beyond traditional fair trade retailers into the more demanding boutique and commercial retail channels. Student designs from 2011 have already generated significant buzz; prototypes released to buyers have received a number of sample requests.

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Exceptional Design Deserves Extraordinary Recognition! Enter IDEA 2012. Dec. 1, 2011 - Feb. 17, 2012

www.idsa.org/idsa-idea-awards New categories this year : Digital Design Service Design Social Impact Design Bathrooms, Spas & Wellness Gardens & Outdoor Kitchens Living Room & Bedroom Boeing 787 Dreamliner, IDEA 2011 Gold and Best in Show Winner Design’s contribution to the world’s fastest selling airplane.

Produced by IDSA

GOOD DESIGN = GOOD BUSINESS Catalyst Case Studies make the connection.

BRP Can-Am Spyder - Featured 2011 Catalyst Case Study

Learn more and get yours at: www.idsa.org/catalyst-gallery

showcase The submitters pay for the submissions to this unjuried showcase.


home is at the heart

“The Zoku Quick Pop Maker freezes pops in seven minutes on your countertop without electricity.� The Zoku Quick Pop Maker designed by Zoku LLC; www.zokuhome.com

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h o u s e w ar e s

“Pizza Cutter: Easy to clean with a removable blade,

it features a comfortable and secure nonslip handle.

Trudeau Pizza Cutter designed by ECCO Design Inc. for Trudeau; www.eccoid.com



“Can Opener: 50 percent less effort due to gears and rotating crank arm, folds for convenient compact storage.” Trudeau Can Opener designed by ECCO Design Inc. for Trudeau; www.eccoid.com

“Garlic Press: Soft and comfortable handles makes it a breeze to add flavorful ingredients to savory recipes.” Trudeau Garlic Press designed by ECCO Design Inc. for Trudeau; www.eccoid.com

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h o u s e war e s

“Ribbon Lamp: Serves as two lamps in one, adapting to the user’s mood on demand.” Ribbon Lamp designed by ECCO Design Inc. for 212Lighting; www.eccoid.com



“A pure aesthetic connected to advanced filtration technology.” Sprite Showers designed by Radius Product Development for Sprite Showers; www.radiuspd.com

“Featuring clean stainless steel lines and an ergonomic T-bar lever,

this wall-mount soap pump is an elegant way to eliminate bottle clutter in your shower.

Commercial Wallmount Soap Pumps designed by LDA for simplehuman; www.ldallc.com

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h o u s ew ar e s

“Originally introduced in 1930, and redesigned for 2011,


the Sunbeam Mixmaster is one of the most iconic American kitchen appliances. Sunbeam Heritage Mixmaster designed by Scott Henderson Inc. for Jarden Consumer Solutions; www.scotthendersoninc.com



“Seeking design identities that point beyond

the existing market for brand distinction.

Cookware Concepts designed by Society Creative; www.societycreative.com

“With unlimited design combinations, Shape-a-Shelf is a tool to design for your individuality.” Shape-a-Shelf designed by Savannah College of Art and Design; Jamie@bowsworld.com

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“Vinturi® Spirit™ instantly aerates your favorite spirits,


“Cool Candescence...Thermesthesia...

Spirit Aerator™ designed by Vinturi Inc.; Rio Sabadicci, Investor; www.vinturi.com

Touch the Sun, and in comfort, see time pass...

Sol Invictus Touchscreen Thermostat/Clock designed by Plishka Design (a ZenStorming Solutions LLC Co.); www.plishkadesign.com


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delivering exceptional flavor enhancements.

Profile for Industrial Designers Society of America

Winter 2011 Innovation: Overcoming Barriers  

Overcoming barriers in design

Winter 2011 Innovation: Overcoming Barriers  

Overcoming barriers in design