Vintage racecars at finish line
November 1st, 2016

Drive Your Design Investment Over the Finish Line

Ok, you’re off to a good start and are doing the right things at the beginning of your New Product Design / Innovation initiative:

  • You have a strong development team.
  • You’ve spent time with the end user gaining valuable insights.
  • You have a great concept and a validated design approach.
  • You have confirmed that end users are enthusiastic about the concept.
  • You’ve proven it provides innovation, great design, and value.

From past experience you know it’s not too tough to come up with a product that has a solid list of functional and practical features. On the other hand, it’s a bit more challenging to create one that generates customer enthusiasm, excitement, and loyalty. Without that enthusiasm and excitement, it is much harder to build a community of devoted customers who make it possible to sell and support the product.

This excitement (we call it “designing products and experiences that people love”) is your design investment. Now you need to ensure that investment is not inadvertently eliminated duing the design process!

There are lots of reasons a design must change after the initial approach is selected. Many companies take their eye off ball at this point, keeping watch on schedule, budget, and quality, while failing to closely safeguard attributes that provide high value, such as joy, excitement, pleasure, and beauty.

Whenever a compromise must be made (for cost or performance or manufacturability), keep the designers involved. Beware of adding features late in the process without validating the design impact and value with the end user. These concerns can distract a product team from the real goal—a rapidly growing community of inspired, enthusiastic, and loyal customers.

Jaguar / Land Rover CEO, Ralf Speth, put it well, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”

Sometimes product features themselves are inspiring, other times it’s something a bit less obvious, like the emotional impact of the visual design. In fact, design may be the biggest factor in the user experience. Changes that come early on typically get close design attention, minimizing the impact to the original design intent. However, be careful that design engagement and review is present through the entire program. This is key to successfully connecting with the consumer.

At BOLTGROUP we collaborate with our clients’ development teams to ensure that the end product going into production has all of the characteristics that end users were excited about during initial concept testing.

For instance, when we collaborated with the Jacobsen team to develop the first all-electric commercial greens mower, there were lots of moving parts. We established the feature set and overall asthetic early (which became the VBL for an entire line of mowers). We validated the feature set with end users and worked with the client’s engineering team. We were given a seat at design reviews throughout the entire program, ensuring the final design was consistant with the initial intent. The result was an award-winning product that the senior team praised as their most sucessful product introduction in years.

The key is strong leadership and a culture of collaboration (see my blog on the importance of a C-suite design advocate). These requirements will ensure that great ideas ripen into solutions that make it to the marketplace with a high return on your design investment.

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