Through history, product design passed the mechanical, electrical and electronic eras where big inventions were accompanied by big hype.
Among those earlier inventions, only those that have incorporated aspects of today’s digital era have met the user’s requirements, whether in a telephone, refrigerator or medical equipment.
As users, we value easy-to-use products that add to comfortable living. Broadly, Europeans were initial inventors who provided functional benefit, Americans mass produced for more people to enjoy affordable products, while the Japanese miniaturised design to bring it close to consumers as cozy, friendly output. Beyond such functional features, I’ve developed a design culture that factors in unlimited sensorial advantage for consumers to always reduce effort and increase comfort when using any industrial product design.
I wrote about ‘reduce effort increase comfort design (RE-ICD)’ in my book Jalebi Management. It reflects people’s psychological and physical craving, and directly connects it to their behaviour. Here, product design becomes sensorial, gets driven by commerce, provides fundamental physical benefits and hence can differentiate any product as pay-off. RE-ICD discipline can be deployed in any product in any category.
Always living in the consumer context, I approach my consulting work through the consumer’s eye, heart, soul, behaviour and psychological ergonomics — the study of the relationship between man and a product.
This allows me to easily enter and accomplish a required design. I’ve found eight universal product design categories that touch billions of people worldwide in their daily lives. RE-ICD can play a major role here to uplift the product’s value towards functional benefit excellence. The eight categories are industrial engineering, digital technology, habitat, luxury goods, FMCG, fashion, service industry and infrastructure design.
Engineering products are precision driven: When engineering components dominate products such as in the auto industry, their alignment, cohesiveness and a particular shape with metal, wood, plastic or any new material, need a tremendous blend that translates to RE-ICD discipline of high creativity. The physical engineering design object should have great detailing and refinement that is visible to give an air of mystery and create genuine aspiration for consumers. Here RE-ICD takes a central theme that becomes the payoff.
Digital technology design is convergence of multi-component factors: Intrinsically, digital technology has no physical expression but improves the product’s feel or unstated usage advantage. RE-ICD design that is driven by non-human digital language has to be obsessed with humanisation. An opposite example is a small smartphone that’s difficult for everybody to use. Today when technology is commoditised, freely available and newness comes every fortnight, an out-of-the-box RE-ICD is required for commercial success.
For example, one switch in a digital camera takes you from making a video to photography. The DSLR camera even allows changing of the lens to bring different effects.
Habitat is comfort and personification: The art of living incorporates habitat product design with its mix of physical engineering and digital backend support. For example, the IKEA mass consumption household products. Consumer choice has its own illogical and continuous demands for change so single style lifestyle products cannot work.
FMCG design highlights convenience: The world is witnessing mushrooming competition in lower price FMCG segments. It would be dangerous to imagine that consumers pay only for the brand’s name and its sophisticated television campaign for their habit-driven regular purchase. Mere incremental product rectifications can make consumers shift.
That’s why FMCG products need a strong RE-ICD differentiating character. For example, there’s huge scope for easy opening containers with a system that makes the product easy-to-reuse.
Fashion design is feel good and personality: In fashion, consumers want an orgasmic feel. This desire has no rational justification; just gives allure and distinguishes individual characteristics. Intangible association and image magnification are strong RE-ICD factors. For example, whatever expensive fashionable shoes you wear, if your feet have no wearing and walking comfort, no Jimmy Choo or Louboutin will convince you buy their shoes Luxury product design is refinement: Most luxury products emanated from European royalty patronage. If you buy jewellry from Cartier, the clip system of hassle-free and consumer-friendly opening and closing system has RE-ICD. Mont Blanc has a special pen nib that responds to pressure by going in to provide outstanding writing or designing experience which no other pen or pencil gives.
Consistent service design is service productisation: Service quality can be unpredictable, varying from person to person. For example, in e-commerce delivery, the product can be wrapped with RE-ICD so that you can examine and reject it without opening it. To productise a service, technology is the backbone support and delivery will always come through the human aspect. Interaction is the key factor in service.
Infrastructure design is philosophical: Infrastructure could be considered an art form. Infrastructure design needs vision at its inception to ensure it’s never outside the trend and requirement. It can have a universal trendy appeal to withstand decades and centuries. That’s why past records of human evolution become important to project the future in designing infrastructure, while functional usage areas and the maintenance system can deploy RE-ICD discipline.
When reduce effort, increase comfort metaphor is at the core of design, consumers connect very well to the product, making it a strong marketing proposition for better commercial value realisation. RE-ICD can radically shift any product design to go beyond the benchmark and create the Surpassmark which is perceptible to the user.
Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at http://www.shiningconsulting.com