Choosing a form

Hi, when faced with a product with a standard shape and small variations in form, how do you guys choose a final form to go with when any one of them could be usable?

An example:

Would be interesting to hear peoples thoughts…



Hi Adam,

That’s a good question, actually. In real life there are two ways:

A.: I like that xy bottle, we’ll make it. = Gut feeling of the boss.

B.: I feel, we should go with xy, because it communicates 1,2,3 in ways 5,6,7.= Analytic approach.

If you go with approach A, let’s hope the boss is genious. If you try to go with B and be a little more
“scientific” and precise concerning stylistic issues you might want to have a body of rules , so that
you can judge the solutions against it. I am most certain that PEPSI Co. carries a large bag of branding
paperwork and customer research data to underlay it’s decisions.

Oh, wait PESI Co ? Well, they go with A. And we all know that.

yours mo-i

P.S: If I had to direct it, I would select the bottle on the right and add one or two lines. What do I win?

We generally use the renderings or foam models and put it into a series of consumer testing. We really don’t encourage “captain’s pick” because it can inccur a large amount of capital based off of just one person’s opinion. An individual may be able to push one idea forward into another round of testing and that’s about it.

I would pretty much never leave minor form variations to a focus panel. Probing, researching, contextual research, yes, maybe even wholesale form language response, but details, no. There is a reason we go to school for this, so that we can be experts at it.

Personally, I like the team to create a world based on the research. Based on everything we’ve learned, we create massive boards of our targeted person’s world, inside and outside of this particular product category yesterday and today, and where we project tomorrow. Overlay the lens of the brand we are working on (how they see the world and what principals they stand for) and the right solution tends to become evident. Any variation more minor than that is a subjective design preference, and designers being the expert in artifact trend, I believe it is up to us.

I’d choose the one that best fulfills the design objectives and criteria, which fulfill the product strategy, which fulfills the value to the customer.

I think another way of saying what Yo said is that there should always be a goal, some kind of target you’re aiming for (and he outlined a good way to get there). In product design the goal isn’t just to make something that looks “good,” it’s much more than that including making something that’s “good” for a particular audience, appropriate for its context, achieves any explanatory purpose, elicits the right emotion, etc. The last details may just be small refinements and clean-up (using your designer eye and skills), but any choice between concepts should always be choosing which concept fits our target/goals (which probably include looking good to a particular audience).

This of course does not mean you should overly second guess yourself in the concept phase, that’s the time for exploration and freedom, but I think you’re talking about how to “land the plane” as they say. I’d also add that there’s always a place for risk taking with design, and being too regimented can squash this, but by the time you’re to the phase of those Pepsi (or is it pepsi now?) bottles you should know how much of a stomach your target market has for risky designs, and in those cases maybe some gut level reaction comes into play.

*Edit: That’s a nicer, more succinct way to say it, iab.

We ask the question “Are we going to sell more one way or the other?”

If the answer is that there is no difference, we choose the one on the right and move forward.

" Does it help or hurt the brand? "

Thanks guys very useful thoughts

Well, what is more important the brand or the bottom line? :sunglasses:

IMHO, I would think that it depends on whether the business objectives is short or long term goals…

Short term, make something that profits immediately. Long term, make something that builds public interest in their products and gains customers

I’m a little slanted because of everything I’ve been reading on branding lately though - I see it in everything :wink:

I would chose the one that feels right…not looks right :wink:

BTW I hate branding…gets in the way of making really good products

Maybe, but it can also prevent really crappy products from seeing the light of day.

I think it’s a integral part… even when there isn’t an established company product line, what we do as designers sets the tone of the company, and is one of the biggest investments in branding that can be made. Product cost a lot to develop, produce, and then they last a long time. If a company wants to think strategicly about their future, considering brand in a product is a good place.

I’m not talking about slapping a logo on in a design language, or copying features other designers have done… but thinking about what the company really means to people and using that to take the design language forward

Atohms, I’m curious. Why do you feel that way? To me it’s the DNA that lets designers be creative but still make a product that fits business goals

There is a reason we go to school for this, so that we can be experts at it.

When reviewing my own concept sketches with myself or the team and also when reviewing the sketches of others on the team, I re-read the brief out loud and ask…

  1. is it on brief?

  2. does it feel right?

In asking those two questions I think concepts can be easily evaluated. If the answer is no to either of the questions we ask, “how could it be better.” Often it only takes a few minor tweaks to get a sketch/concept back on track. If the concept just doesnt seem to be working, we simply file it away and let it go.

Be honest with yourself and teammates.


I’ve seen to many times that some of my best ideas are disregarded/botched because they don’t fit the brand…and I’m not talking about styling. Perfectly great ideas that would result into great products for the consumer but the marketeers didn’t like them because they where to far away from other products they had developed in the past. It didn’t fit in their product-portfolio.
What I’m trying to say is that branding, according to me, limits me in thinking up the best solution for the endconsumer…and that’s who I am designing for. Not the client or brand…although they do pay and hire me :wink:



Without the fit between the product and the brand, the customer will not accept it the best solution. Brand and product cannot be mutually exclusive. 1 company cannot be all things to all people. BMW cannot market the Tata Nano.

I wished they did…

Let’s have a look at Apple then…(the über case/example)

Do you like the direction/branding of their latest products? They used to make the best products for the endconsumer but nowadays it seems like to want to enslave the people. You can do many things with your Iphone/Ipad…but for some you have to ‘jailbrake’ it. Does that seem right? I mean I bought a piece of hardware…its not up to them to tell me what I should do with it.
If I want to see porn on my Iphone it should let me. It’s like designing a blender that doesn’t blend apples just because the designer doesn’t like them…and I do know that the upside of this control is the fluent user-experience that PC’s can’t offer…I’m a Mac-boy myself…but I can’t restrain me from the fact that they are creating products that will ensure and increase their market-share in the future and not for the benefit of the consumer.

I’m convinced that we’ll see quite a revolution in the next decade. Big companies will decay and smaller open-source communities and their products will take over. The power will go to the people it is inevitable.

And yes consumers are like sheep: They buy a product because it’s a specific brand not because it’s the best. Makes me wanna go on a killing spree :frowning:

So do tell me where branding helps the endconsumer?

Oh and I’m sure that someone mentioned this before: I’m a bit naive and black and white… but that’s the way I like it :wink:




What you described has always been Apple’s strategy, except for a brief period from 1994-1997. “Think Different” as long as it is the Apple way. As for my opinion, as irrelevant as it is, their strategy is the reason why I don’t own any Apple products.

Don’t know. My crystal ball isn’t that clear.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but definately in contradiction to the “power to the people” statement above. Funny. What do I have to do in order to avoid your elitist killing spree?

In theory, branding is a promise of the product’s value to the end consumer. It let’s them know what to expect.

Having worked directly for and now consulting for some large global brands, I can undeniably say that a strong sense of brand direction is very important. I’ve worked with large companies that do not have a sense of their brand, which is to say they do not have a sense of their place in the heart and mind of real people. Getting good design through those groups is always very difficult, and when you do, they just don’t have the ability to recognize it, market it, and build on it in future generations of product. Sometimes something amazing sneaks through, and they unknowingly walk away from it, to chase the next thing that isn’t them. While a company with a strong sense of self, who understands how they are perceived in the world, can strategically push the boundaries nd really stand for something. With a strong set of core principals, as a designer you can go deep and really develop something, and when an original idea is green lighted, it will be around for awhile, built on, evolved, and cherished.