NZ Manufacturer November 2013
The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not its mineral rights. – J. Paul Getty
Does design equal Trial and Error?
n the never ending effort of finding new clients we often approach manufacturers and pitch our design skills as an improvement over their current product development efforts. This is not an easy task and can be very frustrating because of the seemingly impossible task of breaking the cycle of manufacturers accepting their own developments of ‘me- too-products’ as fully resolved products. Designers are by no means perfect; they can, however, offer a holistic approach to product development with their ability to grasp the requirements of the client while considering overruling constraints. Designbrand has recently attracted a manufacturing company as a new client. Although we are well seasoned as professionals in our field, every approach to new product development and design has to be idiosyncratic and specific to a client’s particular needs. Based on our obligation for confidentiality and not willing to give away a competitive advantage I would like to describe following design approach in more generic terms. One could almost define it as a clever mix of design and marketing, while it is arguable whether one precedes the other one, not unlike the egg and the chicken. This client’s sales department is hard at work ‘sniffing out the deals’. The constant sales effort reveals opportunities to pitch this manufacturer’s product at a competitive price and most often the deal is closed with the one competitor who offers the best deal, combined with equally competitive quality. On occasion, and increasingly so, all the competitors’ products do not quite hit the mark in all aspects and the sales team report back with a wishlist of what the buyer wants to see in an alternative product. This is where an established relationship
with a design company can be of great benefit to the manufacturer. The above mentioned wishlist can be evolved into a design brief which can then be interpreted by the designers. Sounds too easy? In essence this is exactly what has happened to our new client recently. Through their sales team they knew that the opportunity for a sure fire sale was evaporating on the notion that their own product only partially
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fitted the buyer’s needs. They knew an approximate answer to the buyers needs but did not have the resources of answering the brief with a prototype in time which would be unrefined in many aspects. Not all the product attributes could possibly be included in a first trial and the likelihood of having to re-work the prototype meant that the sale might have slipped away. Repeated interaction with the client had resulted in a high level of confidence that Designbrand could make a difference. The designers reacted immediately and, through intimate knowledge of the manufacturers technical capabilities, were able to translate the designbrief into a short series of concepts for presentation to the buyer. Although still quite sketchy, these concepts, when presented to the buyer by the sales team, were sufficient to ‘stall’ the decision making at buyer’s level and effectively gain sufficient time for a more refined concept.
It was the refined concept which allowed our manufacturing client to make the sale. The bottom line surprise of this anecdote is the fact that the cost of engaging the product designer was considerably lower than the cost of a ‘trial and error’ development which, most likely, would have withdrawn valuable labour resources from production. Instead a high quality representation of the future product was key in affecting a sale without compromising resources elsewhere. The designers were able to turn around the follow-up detail design work in less than a fortnight and the guarantee of the sale made the initial commitment to a design fee almost negligible. Besides making the sale through design and innovation by selling ‘off the plan’, the manufacturer has now gained a reputation for a pro-active attitude in a changing market. As for design – they sold on it!
-Jurgen Brand, Principal Designer, Designbrand Ltd
Published on Nov 25, 2013