Archive for February, 2012

New Design can be a key to success!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

New Design can be a key to success!

© Roger La Salle
Design is not all about beauty

Industrial design attempts to tread the fine line between aesthetic appeal and functionality.

Wrist watches are a good example where this line is often crossed.

Probably the ideal functional watch would have a white face with large black hands and be as thin as possible to perfectly display the time with the minimum of physical presence. However, if one looks at the plethora of watch designs, functionality is usually compromised for appearance.

Unfortunately when appearance is the main driver of design the “waters become muddied” and market risk increases significantly since one persons idea of attractive may not be another’s. Design aimed at purely aesthetic appeal means vastly increased market risk where it is virtually impossible to make a cost benefit value judgement.

Classic Innovation

Drawing on the classic definition of innovation – “Change that adds value“, design needs to ideally target improved value and functionality, something that can be measured.

The Catalyst of New Design

One of the key catalysts in the matrix thinking diagram is new design, an approach that can be applied to many products and services.


New Design


Classic examples in design – both good and bad!

There are numerous products where designers have overlooked obvious opportunities.

Examples include the container for the moistened wet pull out “towelettes”. These are most often sold in a cylindrical container with a pierced top to supposedly facilitate easy dispensing. This maybe a nice idea but anybody that has used one of these has at some stage caught their finger in the pierced top dispenser. For years this has been a “finger trap”, particularly for young fingers, yet it seems no designer has had the foresight to redesign it to overcome this often painful experience.

So too the cylindrical shape of the container meaning in shipping some 25% of the volume of is fresh air since cylinders do not pack efficiently.

The sale of bees honey is an example where user insight and clever design has led to a huge boost in the sales. By observing the frustration of users of honey sold in screw top jars it became clear that using honey was a very messy business. With the re design of the container to provide squeeze packs the sale figures for honey soared.

Another classic example is the “fold back” mini tomato sauce dispenser so often provided with take away hot food. The people that developed and patented this product now “own this market”, courtesy of good and clever design.

Are services any different?

A good example still exists with the Australia Post parcel tracking web site.

The site is easy to use, but when trying to track a parcel in the past the web site asked you to please enter the “Item Number”.

Actually what they really wanted you to enter is the bar code number?

More recently Australia Post has updated its web site where they now ask you to enter the “Tracking Number” but nowhere on their documents is the term “Tracking Number actually used. Again they mean the Bar Code number but is seems the designers of the web site are still not talking to the designers of the paper document.

This classic example of poor design would seem to be underpinned by poor internal communications with little or no “blind shopper” trialling.

There are countless other examples if one cares to look.

It works for manufacturing to!

Good design means designing a product or service that can be easily produced in the manufacturing sense. Again there are countless examples where designers have developed wonderful concepts only to later find the production difficulties almost insurmountable.

What if I can’t change my product?

In many cases it is not possible or desirable to change a product for various reasons.

Power and water utilities are examples. In these cases changes cannot be made to the product but to the distribution model or other design aspects of their business.

For classic products such as Coco Cola or sweets and candies the opportunity still exists for designers to change the package to add value. The chocolate Toblerone is an example where the product comes in a classic efficient and distinctive package.

Many products these days are sold in almost impregnable “blister packs” making the task of opening the package frustrating and difficult to say the least. One wonders if new design and easy to open packages would actually increase usage of such products and thus greater sales? Toothbrushes would have to be one leading example of an almost impregnable package that may indeed hinder the turnover of old brushes for new ones, especially when the user may be in a hurry?

What’s the solution?

The best way to test a design is with a new user or “blind shopper”, what is referred to in Matrix Thinking as “Tracking”.

Track your product and you will be taking a valuable step to optimising you customer experience.

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Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of four books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast. Roger also chairs two Syndicates of the National organisation, “The CEO Institute”. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries and licensed to Deloitte, one of the world’s largest consulting firms.

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