In 2012, the Brazil Design Center (BDC) partnered with the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brazil) creating a unique project to support companies nationwide in the development of products, with a focus on innovation and design.

The goal of the Design Export programme is to provide Brazilian industry a detailed methodology that allows innovation by design and furthermore introduces design as a central part of the development of new products.

A short video detailing the programme can be viewed here:

Q: Tell us about the Design Export programme.

A: For the past two years, Design Export has brought innovation to 60 cities in 7 different Brazilian states, helping create 100 innovative projects for products destined for export. Carried out by Apex-Brasil and the BDC, Design Export is a first-of-its-kind programme that supports Brazilian companies in the development of innovative products with exceptional design aimed at the international market.

The programme provides companies with the simple, easy-to-learn and objective Design in Practice methodology in order to make innovation a part of their product development process. The programme initially reached out to 610 companies, raising their awareness of the use of design as a tool for innovation. Participants of the programme then received support to identify the right professionals who best met their needs, and also had access to financial resources for hiring services towards innovative product development.

Following Design Export’s success in the southern and south-eastern Brazilian states, in 2014 the programme was expanded to the north-east of the country. A strategic partnership with the Pernambuco Design Center allowed the states of Pernambuco, Alagoas and Paraíba to benefit from the Design in Practice methodology as well.

Carrying out the programme nationally required support from and the participation of a broad network of industry associations, design trade associations and other design centres focused on design and innovation. Nine consultants, located in seven states, were trained and put in charge of local services.

Additionally, 133 registered design firms throughout the country are ready to provide design services in the context of this programme. In all, a total of 21 industrial sectors have been considered.

Regarding the international market, participating companies prospected destinations in Africa, Latin America, Europe and the United States. Each location has its own particularities, legislation and concerns, and the project considered these in the briefing it drew up.

In so far as the practice of innovation can be considered knowledge of a tacit variety, the programme demonstrates and reveals the importance of using design in the development of products, packaging, brands and services. Through direct experience, it contributes to creating a culture of innovation among Brazilian companies, increasing the excellence of Brazilian industrial production aimed at exportation, while also encouraging the professional market for design and related areas. The importance of this programme can be summed up in a simple statistic: of the 100 companies participating in the programme, 62 of them made use of design services for the first time.

As a medium term project, improvements are ongoing and based on feedback from consultants, business owners and the designers involved in the process. The programme is also adapted in each Brazilian state, taking local cultures and their specific characteristics into account.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the ‘Design in Practice’ methodology?

A: Aiming to facilitate the process of inserting design in manufacturing, the BDC developed its Design in Practice methodology, which allows design activities to be introduced to companies through business owner involvement and recognition of design. The method takes into account a wide variety of factors from the design and business market, since according to aspects surveyed regarding the evolution of design management on a national and international level, it is necessary to make entrepreneurs familiar with this activity, considering that their time is scarce and they lack knowledge of how design can benefit their companies. The methodology is explained in a course pack with detailed information on all the stages of the process and the control tools used.

Design in Practice is developed through individualised design management consulting for companies with the aim not only to develop new products but to create an organisational culture of innovation and design. That is the programme’s educational objective. Consultants orient entrepreneurs in all stages of the product development process, from identification of an opportunity for innovation, to identifying a design firm ready to respond to their needs, and to implementation on the production line, subsidising them with the tools (briefings, requirement sheets, contracts, etc.) necessary for process management.

Q: The video mentions the expansion of the Design Export programme into the north-eastern region of the country. Do you have any further expansion plans?

A: For the next edition we are planning to serve the northern region too. We will probably serve up to 10 Brazilian states. The programme will help 200 companies develop innovation through design with a focus on exports.

Q: What is the role of Pernambuco Center of Design in your partnership?

A: The Pernambuco Design Center (PDC) was responsible for coordinating the programme in the north-eastern states (for example Pernambuco, Alagoas and Paraíba). The entire methodology was passed on to them, while a team of consultants was trained to serve local companies and the PDC coordinated this work with our support.

Q: Can you provide us with an example that illustrates the success of your programme? 

A: There are a number of great examples, including the project initiated by Belchior Cortinas e Decorações seeking to develop a new product category in home decoration: decorative wall covers. Headquartered in Santa Bárbara d’Oeste, Belchior manufactures a wide variety of decorative products, such as curtains, pillows, cushions, curtain rods, rings and other accessories. The company is always striving for innovation, using recyclable, ecological and durable materials, all with unique and modern design. Its most popular items abroad are accessories for curtains, developed in injected plastic.

“We learned about Design Export through the Think Plastic Brazil programme. We’d never worked with a design firm before and out initial goal was to further develop the products we had in our portfolio to leverage sales. However, in partnership with professionals from Grupo Criativo, we ended up taking things even further, advancing towards a new category of products with the potential to open up new markets for Belchior in Brazil and abroad,” explained Henrique Andrade, responsible for the company’s export department.

The team from the Grupo Criativo design firm started the project through in-depth research to learn more about Belchior, its competitors, customer profiles and potential offered by the decoration accessory segment, both domestically and on the main international markets.

“We identified that the do-it-yourself trend is very strong in the decoration segment, especially with the younger crowd. In more mature markets, such as North America and Europe, there are many products that incorporate this concept, but Latin American markets still show great potential for new proposals,” explained architect Rodrigo Leme, from Grupo Criativo. The macro trends that provide support to DIY are, above all, experientialism (pursuit of new consumer experiences), individualism (customisation and personalisation) and the slow movement (living simply with more meaning).

In the process of generating ideas and concepts, the staff at Grupo Criativo sought out new paths to combine Belchior’s expertise in producing decorative accessories in plastic with the DIY trend. “We saw an opportunity in the decorative cover segment, due to its ease of application and great transformative power. We studied several types of products, such as cement panels, textures, special rollers, wallpaper, wood coverings, hydraulic tiles, vinyl adhesive and decorative frames. From the point of view of ease of application, versatility and cost, plastic coverings showed great potential over existing solutions on the market,” Rodrigo pointed out.

The next steps involved coming up with the looks for both the new product and its branding. The main attributes that guided the professionals from Grupo Criativo were practicality, versatility, contemporaneity and Brazilianness. The project gave rise to three modular solutions inspired by Brazilian architecture: Pampulha, Rio and Sampa. Through their shape, the pieces can be applied organically and creatively, forming contemporary, unique panels.

A basic palette of five colours for the coverings was proposed, in addition to three wood finishes. New colours and finishes will be introduced in future collections.

“We are quite enthusiastic about the new product. We presented prototypes at an international trade show and they were very well received. Design Export brought us possibilities for innovation, encouraging a new way of looking at our own market. In addition, the working methodology is very efficient and brought us concrete results,” emphasized Henrique.

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