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June 6th, 2017

Ideate, Embody, Articulate—The Path to Product Innovation

Just what you’ve been waiting for—three ways to create products that people love. Simple, but not always easy.

Generate Worthy Ideas

If you need new ideas—ideas that challenge the status quo—then learn to see connections between seemingly unrelated things. The term “ideate” comes from the Greek verb idein, which means “to see”. From seeing connections come innovations. The most meaningful innovations start with deep insights into unmet needs, human nature, and commercial markets. These insights are explored by highly creative interdisciplinary teams, and then juxtaposed with technologies, business goals, and the brand milieu. The juxtaposition process is the lens through which connections are discovered and bold ideas are envisioned.

The resulting ideas are then assessed in three ways:

  1. Desirability—Will your customer see value in the idea and be compelled to act?
  2. Differentiation—Will the idea be distinctive in a competitive market?
  3. Viability—Do technologies, distribution methods, and cost structures exist to realize the idea in a way that meets your goals?

Embodying Your Idea

While some companies need ideas, others have their big idea or new technology, but require the right configuration and form to connect to their end users. Without proper design the execution of an idea misses the mark, and the all-important customer experience falls flat. Ask yourself—who is my customer and what experiences do I want for him or her? What look and feel should my idea have? What design will make it delightful to use, easy to maintain, and instill pride in ownership?

To mold an idea into an innovation, first we gain end user empathy, often through formal research. Next, we creatively iterate with quick loops of conceptualization, prototyping, and validation with users (for more about generating better ideas through ideation see our previous white paper). Michelangelo said a sculptor must discover the statue inside the stone. Likewise, the design team must find the right form and configuration within the idea. Once the design starts to gel, the diligent work of detailed engineering, testing, and commercialization begins. An idea is not an innovation until it’s brought to fruition and provides value.

Brand Articulation

Articulating your brand through product design helps establish a coherent voice for your company. More than just product graphics and naming, brand articulation includes product form, features, and signature design elements that send the right visual messages to your consumers. These design elements can be standardized in the form of a Visual Brand Language (VBL). The VBL is a careful framework for product design used to create a connected family of products that communicate brand attributes, build recognition, and improve efficiencies in innovation cycles.

What brand attributes should your product communicate? Efficiency, safety, luxury, value? Most any attribute can be communicated through design. Remember, distinct, ownable “signature elements” help customers recognize your product from across the room. Brand articulation builds brand equity. It drives the aesthetic innovation that creates consumer lust for a product.

So, create a product that starts with a compelling idea, is realized with appropriate form and features, and authentically communicates the brand of the company behind it. People will love it.

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