Q: So, have we moved away from the profit model to the user experience model?
A: Well, it is not about the product itself anymore because the product has to be part of a system. This means asking questions such as how do I get a manufacturer? How do I get my product to the shelves in a store? How do I package my product? How do I assemble it? All this becomes a system. This system needs to be part of a service: business structures are the relationship between people and the company or organisation. An example is smartphones. It is not about the device, it is about what the screen is doing, and about the apps we want to download, and new ways of communicating or entertaining ourselves. This is what gives value to the smartphone. Without this complete service, the smartphone has no value at all and would just be a brick we carry in our pockets.
Finally, it also has to be part of an idea. This is the store we fall in love with, maybe a brand or an emotional connection that is built. If you do not have this emotional connection, you will not be successful. Industrial design is not solely about the products, but everything that is built around it.
Then the second part of the definition: “a memorable, valuable and positive experience” is self-explanatory, but I particularly emphasise the word memorable. A memorable product is not one that you can remember, but one that encourages you to talk to others about your experience.
We can synthesise this definition as, “industrial design today is the ability to make the ordinary extraordinary”.
I teach my students that design is the ability to generate remarkable solutions, not crazy solutions for the sake of being original, but important solutions.
Q: Do you think that the term industrial design is still valid?
A: Throughout my career and research in the field of design and design management, I can confirm that we do still need industrial designers.
Earlier in my research, I used to focus – not on the product, but on the strategy. Then I started to realise through the development of our service design programme at SCAD that one can ideate a service or a system, but without the industrial designer who is a master of atom manipulation, nothing will materialise.
Industrial designers are good at atom manipulation and they should retain this expertise and dominance in the field of materials and innovation. There is an emergence of new fields because everything has become much more complex. Service designers are the new creatives and professionals at the fore that connect people with entities: a company, the banking system, health system, religion or political party. They use the same research tools as industrial designers in order to identify opportunities and people’s interests. They design a system around the relationship between industry and consumers. Eventually, service designers will determine the elements that a product, a brand, a system or a marketing campaign must have. This way, we will have a comprehensive and consistent experience across all aspects of product development. It is not only about the relationship with the object any more; it is about the relationship with the object, the service, the brand and the ideas we want to share with the consumer. The design manager and the service designers are the ones who think about the holistic system relationship between people and entities, not the industrial designer.