Objectified is a feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them. Itâ€™s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. Itâ€™s about the designers who re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. Itâ€™s about personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability.
Archive for March, 2009
I had the opportunity to work for Claude Gidman a few years ago where I learned about a man who had many years experience in Vehicle Design from working at Ford toÂ designing VIA Rail interiors to off highway vehicles withÂ Gidman Design.Â It wasÂ just after I leftÂ that Claude retired the Gidman Design Company. The following article is aÂ tribute to both a mentor and a friend.
David DuncanÂ IDWS
Red Rocket man reflects on 40 years as designing mind
By Christopher Hume
Toronto Star Design Critic
Few Torontonians know Claude Gidmanâ€™s name, but most know his work.
The 65-year-old Industrial Designer ranks among the most respected Canadian practitioners of this ubiquitous yet invisible art.
Though Gidmanâ€™s credits include everything from front-end loaders to vacuum cleaners, his best-known design is the Toronto streetcar.
It qualifies as a genuine civic icon, one of the things that makes this city unique. But for Gidman, it is only one of hundreds of projects he has completed to date.
â€œI donâ€™t want to be known just for the streetcar,â€ insists Gidman, who recently retired as head of Ontario College of Art and Designâ€™s industrial design department. â€œIâ€™ve done so many different things.â€
Just how many can be [was]Â seen in [the year 2000] Â a small tribute exhibition [was] on display in the Atrium at the college, 100 McCaul St., until [that] Â Friday. The drawings, paintings, models and photographs in this wide-ranging survey document a career that dates back more than four decades.
The earliest works are a series of small futuristic scenarios done in the late 1950s. They illustrate Gidmanâ€™s vision of transparent workplaces decorated with sleek furniture, streamlined greenery and ocean-liner cars outside.
Gidman smiles at these youthful imaginings. â€œBack in those days,â€ he recalls, â€œsmall meant cheap.â€
How things have changed; now, neither big nor small means cheap.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter whether youâ€™re designing heavy equipment or ski boots,â€ Gidman argues. â€œThe design process is a process. It should start with a team of people from many different disciplines - engineering, marketing, design and so on.
â€œCanada is so well-placed. Weâ€™ve got such bright, educated people with lots of experience. But we need to start working together.â€
Gidman has fought to bring a team approach to design. A highlight came in the 1980s when he persuaded the presidents of the art college, the University of Toronto and Ryerson to sign an agreement committing their institutions to teaching product design.
â€œAll along Claude has emphasized teamwork,â€ says Lenore Richards, dean of the art collegeâ€™s design faculty. â€œHe also focuses on the pragmatics of mass production, such as materials and processes. Ultimately, though, itâ€™s about developing meaningful designs for users.â€
So far, his dream of a multi-disciplinary product-design centre remains unrealized. And although Gidman continues to teach at U of T and run his own studio in the Albion Hills, he has abandoned the fight to bring light into the ivory tower.
â€œI donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll miss it,â€ he confesses. â€œIâ€™ve made my contribution.â€
That has been recognized many times, most publicly in 1987 when Gidman became the first industrial designer to win a Toronto Arts Award. Gidman oversaw the production of the Brita water filter and a second TTC vehicle, the â€œkneelingâ€ Orion bus for disabled passengers. But Gidmanâ€™s most enduring legacy is his streetcar. Each time one rumbles by, heâ€™s reminded of how well it turned out. You donâ€™t have to be a Red Rocket scientist to figure out why.
â€œThereâ€™s a certain romantic aspect to what a streetcar should be,â€ he notes. â€œThe question was whether you want the streetcar to blend in with the city or stand out. We decided it should stand out.â€
The design process, which began in 1974, lasted several years and was steeped in controversy. It turned out that Torontonians were deeply attached to the original Red Rockets, which had travelled city streets since the 1930s.
â€œWe had delegations of people who tried to stop the development of the new streetcar,â€ Gidman remembers. â€œThe question was how futuristic it should be, or how traditional. Had we followed the style trend of the time, we would have produced a less-successful result.â€
But as he loves to point out, design must address function above all.
â€œI thought we should get the driver up high enough so that he was at eye-level with passengers,â€ says Gidman. â€œBefore, it was quite demeaning, drivers were down at belt-buckle level.â€
Then thereâ€™s the impressive front window, curved to reflect interior glare away from the driver. A few minor modifications and a quarter of a century later, Gidmanâ€™s streetcar is an urban fixture, with 196 in service in Toronto along with 52 articulated vehicles.
â€œI knew the streetcar had been accepted years ago,â€ Gidman laughs. â€œBack when it started to appear in cartoons.â€
(Published by Toronto Star on April 5, 2000 4:40 PM)
In 2000, the Exhibit honoured the man behind TTC streetcars
Process | Tool cost | Capacity | Tool life = material
Rotational Molding | Low | 50-120 |50,000
Thermoforming A | Low | 600-1,500 | 100,000 = aluminum
Thermoforming B | Low | small run | 100-25,000 = resin
Thermoforming C | Low | Prototype | 7 - 20 = wood
RIM (pDCPD) | Medium | 300-1,200 | 100,000 = aluminum
LFPUR A | Medium | 300-1,200 | 50,000 = aluminum
LFPUR B | Medium | Low | 5,000 = resin
RTM A | Medium | 30-80 | 3,000 = GRP
RTM B | Medium | 30-80 | 50,000 = aluminum
SMC low pressure | Medium | 300-600 | 100,000 = aluminum
PU Integral skin A | Medium | 300-600 | 50,000 = aluminum
PU Integral skin B | Medium | 300-600 | 200,000 = steel
SMC high pressure | High | Up to 2,000 | 1,000,000 = steel
Injection molding A | High | Up to 50,000 | 100,000 = aluminum
Injection molding B | High | Up to 50,000 | 1,000,000’s = steel
IVT International 2005
GROW YOUR OWN FUEL - PARIS, FRANCE
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â New Hollandâ€™s hydrogen-powered tractor was the not-entirely unexpected winner of a gold medal at the SIMA Innovation Awards in February.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The NH 2 tractor is based on the T6000; replacing the engine with hydrogen fuel cells and three Li-ion batteries that power electric drive motors. The 120hp working prototype is able to perform just like a T6000, while operating silently and emitting only water. Look out for an in-depth feature in our November issue.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â This will be a key element in the OEMâ€™s energy-independent farm concept to help farmers achieve fuel autonomy. Traditional barriers to hydrogen use are not an issue here â€“ farmers have enough space to install alternative electricity generation systems such as solar panels or wind farms.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â This would enable them to produce compressed hydrogen from water, via electrolysis, or directly from methane by burning waste or biomass. With the hydrogen stored at the farm in underground tanks, the problem of refueling would become irrelevant, due to the short working/ travel distances of agricultural machinery.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Not content with one award, the OEM also picked up a silver medal for its Easy Drive alternative to compact tractor hydrostatic transmissions.
iVT International March 2009
Industrial Design has evolved from its historic meaning of product aesthetics to a deeper, more complex concern for man and his environment.
by Arthur J. PulosÂ
Sometime before 1920, Joseph Sinel put the words “Industrial Design” on his letterhead and thereby announced that he was ready to do product design for American industry. In 1927, Norman Bel Geddes established the profession of Industrial Design, that is to say, he claimed to be the “first designer of national reputation to surround himself with a staff of specialists and offer Industrial Design services.” Raymond Loewy believes that “the beginning of Industrial Design as a legitimate profession” was his contract with the Hupp Motor Company because “for the first time a large corporation accepted the idea of outside advice on the development of its products.”
In point of fact, none of these gentlemen invented Industrial Design nor was it created by Walter Dorwin Teague who turned from a successful career in advertising illustration to product design in 1926. One of his first clients was the Eastman Kodak Company and this alliance, which lasted from 1927 until his death in 1960, was highlighted by the phenomenal success of the Baby Brownie camera produced in Plastic in 1934 to sell for $1. Henry Dreyfuss was only 25 years old when he founded his practice of Industrial Design in 1928 following a career in the design of costumes and scenery for the theater. One of his earliest successes resulted from an assignment from Sears Roebuck to design a washing machine.
These gentlemen did not invent Industrial Design; nor was it created by Lurelle Guild, Egmont Arens, John Vassos, Ray Patten, Harold Van Doren, Russell Wright, Donald Deskey or Peter Muller-Munk, all of whom began to practice Industrial Design in the 1920’s. Rather. Industrial Design came into being in the United States as a result of the unique demand a twentieth century Machine Age for individuals qualified by intellect and and sensitivity to give form to the humanistic elements of mass-produced objects. It sought to fill the vacuum left by the inability of the craftsmen to anticipate every demand which would be imposed on a mass-produced product by an expanded technology and a preoccupation with consumer appeal and satisfaction. These Industrial Designers and many others like them were the result of this phenomenon not its originators.
The first signs of Industrial Design made an appearance at the onset of the Industrial Revolution as a necessary concomitant to the standardization of parts and the subdivision of labor. However, it was not until the twentieth century that mass production was perfected to the point where the input of the conceiver of the product could be finally separated from the output of its producers. In an oblique way, its greatest impetus came front World War I, the first war to be fought essentially by machines. The success of mass produced ammunition, rifles, machine Guns, tanks, airplanes, dirigibles and aerial bombs was only partially softened by mass-produced medical supplies, ambulances and tailor-made cigarettes. At first, the awesome capacity of an industrial economy geared for quantity production generated fears that man might himself be dominated by the machine. However, the national fever which swept the country after the war soon diverted this industrial capacity to the manufacture of products to serve the common man. His purchasing power crept steadily upwards. Electricity, a means of ready energy, had become available to everyone. With a capacity sufficient to drive a train or trolley or to grind meat or wash clothes, it promised to conquer domestic and industrial drudgery and almost did. The broom, the washboard, and the coffee mill all fell before an onslaught of electrified products. The acceptance of the machine as an instrument of production necessary to the needs of democracy made the common object beautiful and desirable. Products for everyday use acquired a new dignity and promised economic profit at the same time. Media promotion magazines national magazines and radio advertising stimulated mass sales and provided a steady demand for the talents of designer’s and offered them a sense of participation in a dynamic economy.
The cultural break which occurred when the First World War interrupted the flow of art products and talent from Europe to America had aroused some of our cultural leaders to the urgency for developing our own designers. In 1917, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York organized a series of annual exÂhibitions of American industrial art motivated by a desire to demonstrate the value of its collections to designers and manufacturers. At first, it exhibited only such products as had been inspired by its colÂlections. However, slowly it began to recognize the work of independent American designers to the point of adding advertising art to its exhibit including work by Walter Dorwin Teague.
Neither the Metropolitan Museum nor the AmeriÂcan design community were prepared, however, for the shock of the refusal by the then Secretary of State Herbert Hoover of an invitation to the United States to participate in the Paris International Exposition of Design and Decorative Arts in 1925. His relucÂtance was based on the sincere and not improbable conviction that the United States could not comply with the Exposition’s rule that “all exhibits must be modern and of original design.” The United States was one of the only three civilized nations which did not participate; the others being Germany which was not invited, and China which was in political chaos at the time.
The Paris Exposition offered very little in the way of mass-produced products. It did, however, champion successfully a new spirit in design, namely that the products of the twentieth century owed nothing to historic style and, further, that their chief inspiration should come from geometric form and the machine. The effect on the American design community was immediate and powerful. Paris became the center of the design world. A number of American designers (among who were Donald Deskey and Russell Wright) went to Paris to see the Exposition and
came back to begin the practice of Industrial Design. Within a year, Walter Dorwin Teague and Raymond Loewy abandoned illustration for Industrial Design.
The Secretary of Commerce of the United States reacting to the cultural impact of the show appointed a commission of over 100 manufacturers to visit and report on the Paris exposition. Their report is important because in it industry publicly recognized that it had an obligation to our economy to support American designers and a contemporary idiom. In spite of the fact that the report and its lesson have forgotten by our decorative arts and furnishings, it might be interesting to repeat it here as a plaintive echo. The commissions recognized: â€œFirst, that the modern movement in applied art is designed to Playa large part in the near future in many important fields, of productions throughout the western world;
â€œSecond, that the nation which most successfully nationalizes the movement and brings its expressions into terms acceptable and appropriate to modern livÂing conditions and modern taste will possess a disÂtinct advantage both to domestic and foreign trade; â€œThird, that the movement will undoubtedly reach our own shores in the near future and unless we are to be entirely dependent at this junction upon foreign talent, manufacturers, designers and school activiÂties should take careful note of its course abroad and endeavor to initiate a parallel effort of our own upon lines calculated to appeal to the American consumer.â€
Immediately after the Paris Exposition, the AmeriÂcan Association of Museums imported and circulated a collection of objects from the Exposition on the premise that it was not intended to stimulate a deÂmand for the European products themselves, nor to encourage the copying of European creations, but rather to stimulate the development of a parallel movement in the United States. Its sponsors hoped that we would be encouraged to build on our own traditions and seek expression of the artistic current of the day and to bring out new forms appropriate to the living conditions of the twentieth century. The success of these shows was due in part to the fact that the products were not exhibited as isolated objects dâ€™artâ€”contemporary curios against an hisÂtoric backgroundâ€”but rather as elements in an enÂvironment which was done entirely in the new spirit
New York department stores were quick to recogÂnize the market value of public interest in the new Art Moderne style and, in very short order, each of the major department stores held its own exhibition of products in new style. Franklin Simon hired Norman Bel Geddes to develop a new approach to its window displays utilizing dramatic lighting. When the winÂdows were unveiled the crush of viewers was so great that extra police had to be assigned to keep traffic moving. Within three months, every Fifth Avenue store had changed its displays into the new style.
An exchange of letters between James Rennie and Norman Bel Geddes (printed in The Neu, York Times in 1928) demonstrates the influence which this new style and its promise of a new world had on designers and artists. Rennie’s letter called attention to the â€œfact that Norman Bel Geddes has left the theater flat and is now designing window displays, automoÂbiles, scales and various other odds and ends which have no relation to dramatic art. Mr. Bel Geddes’ explanation of this is that industrial objects offer broader opportunities than the theater in its present general condition.â€ It closed with the expressed hope that Bel Geddes might be spanked editorially.
Bel Geddes responded: â€œWe live in an age of industry and business. It is a fact. There is nothing wrong with it.Â Any wrong is in the point of view of those who are unsuccessful in dealing with it.Â It is as absurd to condemn an artist of today for applying his ability to insustry as it is to condemn Phidias, Giotto or Michaelangelo for applying theirs toward religion.
â€œIt is more important that I should be working at something that interests one, that is of the present, such as the automobile, the airplane, the steamship, the railway car, architecture and furniture, than it is for me to keep working in the theater merely because I have spent 15 years doing so.â€
Norman Bel Geddes, perhaps, caught the excitement and challenge of working for industry better than any other designer of the twenties and thirties. As a result, his studios served as a magnet for many other designers, including Henry Dreyfuss and Russell Wright in the early 1920’s. Later it drew Garth Huxtable, William Paxton, Peter Schladermundt, Rudolph Koepf and, after World War II, Eliot Noyes.
These former associates agree in principle that Bel Geddes was â€œas close to a genius as this profession had produced.â€ Â His predictive capacity was uncanny. In an article for the Ladies Home Journal in 1931, he predicted curtain wall construction, vertical takeoff airplanes, photoelectric cells to open doors, air-conditioning, airplanes encircling the globe, a new fuel of vastly improved power and infinitesimal bulk, exploration of the sea bottom and interplanetary space. His book, Horizons, is a classic.
It would be illogical to ignore the fact that most Industrial Designers of the 1930’s were caught up by this same spirit of progress and adventure. Dramatic sales successes were scored again and again by redesigned products. The Great Depression itself gave impetus to the efforts of designers when it was discovered that sales volume could be maintained by making a product an item of fashion subject to evanescent taste. The designers promoted annual model changes in products encouraging public aspiration for a higher standard of living. In quick order, Art Moderne gave way to the Skyscraper Style, this, in turn, was replaced by streamlining. So, it has been ever since, one cosmetic influence replacing another. It is unfortunate that, for some designers, responsibility ends at this level and that they have just become a promotional arm of the sales force of industry.
Other designers introduced into their products a concern for the consumer’s well-being which went much deeper than arbitrary Styling. They have proved that through design analysis products can be evolved which are less expensive to produce, require fewer parts in manufacture, incorporate new materials and processes with attendant savings in cost and service, and produce objects which are more functional than their earlier counterparts.
The range of practice of Industrial Design today is so broad as to make unrealistic the use of the phrase “Industrial Design” in its historic sense of product aesthetics. Yet, the glamour of the name remains with its promise of dramatic changes in product expression accompanied by equally dramatic increases in sales. In point of fact, the practice of Industrial Design has drifted so far from its origins in hardware and mass production that it is reasonable to speculate that the qualifying adjective “industrial” will disappear from the title leaving the professional in this field of service to be known simply as a designer. This would provide an umbrella title covering the activity of so-called Industrial Designers.
This designer then, as we might term him, serves our economy at the interface between man and his environment. He is free to work for public agencies and government as well as for private enterprise and industry. In fact, he may often serve as a necessary bridge between these protagonists of our democratic society. His educational breadth provides him with an understanding of physical science and technological process, a sympathy for social science and the humanities coupled with creativity and aesthetic sensitivity.
At the present time, independent design offices undertake assignments varying over the entire man made environment. These may range from space planning to product planning, from sales and promotional programs to institutional studies, from research to application, from exhibits and trade fairs to graphics, packaging and hard goods.
Donald McFarland, head of the West Coast office of Latham, Tyler and Jensen, predicted last fall at the annual meeting of the IDSA that, in another 10 years, the independent Industrial Design offices would give way to corporate design staffs. While one cannot disagree with the notion that corporate design is becoming a stronger influence in company planning and operation, it is also evident that a need will persist for independent designers.
Corporate design groups will continue to rely, at least for design insurance reasons, on the broader experience and less directed judgment of outside consultants. It is very difficult for an inside group, committed as it normally is to the problems of meeting a continual and pressing demand for products to sell, to set aside either time or intellectual capacity for longer or broader range product development.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The word â€œconsultant,â€ in a strict sense, refers to the singular and highly personal activity of an individual retained for his direct counseling. In every case, he is a person of high intelligence, perceptive to developing trends, with thorough and commanding respect and experience in his chosen field. His value to a client is, at least in part, due to the fact that he is free of the narrower frame of reference and internecine rivalries within a company. His special status places him close to top management where he may freely offer counsel even if it is at variance with established opinion. Free to cross disciplines, he may introduce broader environmental influences.
It is no accident that many of the pioneers of this profession have developed a pure consultant relationship with a client and have become valued and trusted confidants of its top management. In this capacity, the consultant operates with a very small staff (if any at all) and very much out of his hat rather than his portfolio. He tends to meet with management, often as a part of a larger consulting group, on an annual, semiannual or quarterly basis. His primary function is to help shape long term product policy.
More often the consultant operates on a short term basis meeting with in-plant personnel working on current products. These people may be designersâ€”if the company carries its ownâ€”or else engineering and marketing, personnel. He serves primarily to help tune a product or product line to market conditions. Such meetings are usually held monthly or weekly or even more often in the press of deadlines. At this level, the consultant may help his client develop a design staff and determine Industrial Design practices for him.
The most frequent type of outside design service is concerned with the use of independent designers to supplement in-company design staffs. They provide a satellite design service rather than serving as consultants since they seldom have anything to do with product policy or direction. Rather, their primary value is to supply additional design help to the company as it is needed. Such an arrangement helps keep the company staff lean and thus avoids the problem of long range commitments and responsibilities. Further, the independent designer working on such a basis has an opportunity to flesh out his own regular work and may aspire to achieve a relationship with his client company on a higher plane.
Most if not all Industrial Designers are motivated by a persistent effort to bring aesthetic virtue and scientific value into harmony in mass-produced objects. They believe that it is logical to expect that efficiency and elegance may be tuned to serve manâ€™s common needs. It is disturbing on one hand to recognize that the profession has not seen fit to establish even minimal standards for practice and that many members of this forty-year old profession consider any efforts in this direction as a threat to this freedom to shift practice at will. At the same time, this is evidence of the dynamic virility which characterizes the practice of design. The essence of Industrial Design is distilled from its ability to extract from an industrial economy those new products which are expressive of human need.
“The Changing Face of America“
Industrial Design Magazine
Businesses that are struggling from the financial problems in the current economic slow down are under pressure to evaluate daily operations for new cost efficiencies.Â Particularly in the manufacturing sectors were profitability has been hit hard, companies that produce consumer products, commercial products, vehicle products, and even capital equipment have had to cut jobs and cut unnecessary costs to stay alive let alone competitive. With all of this; the monetary policy news of â€˜quantitativeâ€™ or â€˜credit easingâ€™ measures that are being initiated to jump start this downturn are slow to gain ground. Â However one thing seems consistent from the market analysts â€” positive action is needed and forward thinking is critical.Â Complacency can start to creep into a company and mediocrity can allow competitors to take away market share if nothing is initiated.Â Most corporations know relatively well how to house clean and manage the cost and expense side of the business, but generating future products and innovations will be the challenge for going forward.
Anne Mulcahy, ChairmanÂ & CEO of Xerox, in an interview with Susie Gharib of Nightly Business Report said â€œThis is a time where you have to be listening to your customers,Â â€¦be tough-minded, â€¦but not trade off the future.Â Donâ€™t mortgage the future for the present â€¦ making sure that we are preserving investments particularly in Research and Development (R&D), which will provide the pipeline of innovation in the future.â€ What Anne Mulcahy was stating is that for Xerox to be on the forefront at the end of this downturn, executives need to be very mindful of the stability between preserving cash and introducing new products.Â It is this kind of corporate drive, to be customer focused that will motivate new ideas and new products for a favorable outcome down the road.
The questions companies need to be asking are varied but some might be the following. Where should we be in one year, three years or five years for competitive advantage?Â What internal stimulus plan is in place to motivate our customer base?Â What products will bring income back into the company at the end of this recession?Â What will inspire consumer confidence in the future; will it be as simple as having the best-in-class product available? Will we be able to recognize a future need for the end user?Â Will we be able to differentiate ourselves with the right market trends?Â
Knowing what tools to use to facilitate these questions can be beneficial within tightening fiscal budgets.Â So how do other companies develop a thought, an inventive idea and turn it into a customer focused profitable product?Â Look at MP3 data compression technology, an innovative concept that began back in 1987 at the Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft Institute Research Center, in Germany.Â Now leap ahead about 15 years, what is the first product that comes to mind when you think of an MP3 player?Â Knowing that there are a handful of similar products out there, one that might have stood out is the iPod.Â Incoming CEO of Macintosh, Steve Jobs had to ask some of those key questions in 1997 to help turn the company around and set a course for profitability.Â And writing about this in â€œSketching user Experiencesâ€ author Bill Buxton notes that the differentiator at Macintosh was that Steve Jobs immediately brought Industrial Design into the executive level of core business planning to implement user based stylish products.Â Identifying that creative design would be the catalyst for the future of Mac products, he realized that if they didnâ€™t design their products with an added value for consumers, it didnâ€™t have a chance to compete for market share, nor get a good return on investment (ROI).Â Steve Jobs knew adding the Industrial Designers touch was about developing a high level of creative inventiveness along side the engineering of the final product.Â As you might have noted, not all MP3 players are iPods, however all MP3 players have been engineered to play MP3 compressed data.Â So Macintosh has emerged as a company because they worked hard to develop a user based design strategy with stylish features along side the engineering to attract consumers to the final product.
One of the most difficult parts of being innovative â€” the doing of new things, is giving that new â€˜thingâ€™ a body, a face â€” the creative style, feel and shape, that â€˜wowâ€™ factor to gain market share.Â This creative process for marketability is well developed in the automotive industry. Well before heavy investment is spent on engineering a vehicle, Industrial Designers create multiple concept sketches, 3D computer models and clay models of an idea.Â These virtual vehicles show the â€˜visionâ€™ of the new product, in a format that can be reviewed by management, engineering, marketing and focus groups for feedback.Â Some prototype models are further developed for release in a hand full of auto shows as future concept vehicles.Â These are used to gauge public perception of what shapes and features should be offered up in upcoming production models.Â For instance take General Motors, they didnâ€™t solely reveal the technology behind their advanced electric-hybrid vehicle; they used a clay prototype presented as the GM Volt.Â It was a model that helped GM gain international attention and much needed investment for GMâ€™s greener future.
The bottom line for companies will be the need to preserve cash, keep operations fluid, and at the same time develop innovative and stylish products.Â This might be okay for large corporations to absorb, but what if modifying a product is done only once every couple of years? Â An idea for consideration in this balancing act to keep moving forward with ideas might be to utilize an Open Innovation business model.Â The general idea behind the concept is to restructure some of the product development overhead, by using external firms with experience in specific areas of the in the R&D process.Â For example; outsourcing the Industrial Design segment of the product development process means that a company can utilize the same design strategies as seen at Macintosh and General Motors but at a more manageable level.Â Coordinating the in-house process with outsourced knowledge means that a company can decrease the time to market and increase the customer focused value of the end product.Â Traditional production methods are changing, and the Open Innovation model has many facets for a companyâ€™s product life cycle (PLC).Â It is a process that will need to be evaluated and customized as companies try to stay innovative and competitive in this global economy.
Final thought, as coined on the cover of the book by Stephen Bayley and Terence Conran â€œDesign: Intelligence Made Visibleâ€, is accurate to describe the results a customer focused design has on a product.Â Design can articulate the product value to potential investors and can increase market share, both of which can help a company make it through this current crisis.
David Duncan is President of IDWS.ca, helping companies develop Form with Function.
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