Industrial design method?


I wonder if any of you industrial designers are using any kind of method or technique, which is not intuition based, to choose the most fitting styling to a product on a design process?

You know the product’s market and target audience, now you have to choose whether it would be curvy or sharp, monochromatic or colorful, rounded or lengthy etc. how do you choose?

(I’m not talking about the methods of checking your decisions by focusing groups etc.)


It comes down to intuition at some level…if it’s a race car or any speed form, it automatically follows that the design will have a “wedge” form…if it’s slow, it’ll mostly have a more vertical front end etc.

For strategic targeting…

  1. create a style board for each of your target users

  2. create positioning maps that describe design in terms you use (using continuums of curvy-to-sharp, mono-to-colorful etc.)

  3. based on what you see from the style-boards, position your users (current and desired states) on the map. You can also survey actual users to get this information.

Now you’ve got a tool to help you make those strategic choices about what will resonate with your target users.

For confirmation, conduct user-preference tests.

You set up a matrix score chart. Then you give scores to the design based on the individual questions and add the scores up. The highest score is the winner.

Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it done before. It’s sad.

How is that sad? Most textbooks use a variation of that technique, including Creating Breakthrough Products by our own Craig Vogel.

…How do you do it?

exactly, same here. plus a scoring matrix sometimes to combine intended styles/feature (ie. dynamic, futuristic, sharp, modern, complex, etc.) and the weighted importance of each. (as not everything is equally important).

personally i find i’m between both an intuitive approach and an analytical one. I can often see something and “know” it’s right, but prefer to present the analytical approach to the client so that they know i’m not just full of $hit and making stuff up. It’s a fine balance, to say the least, but the most project that turn out successfully have some sort of positioning matirx or scoring involved, even if just for the sake of getting on the same page w.r.t. descriptive terms like “modern” that mean different things to different people. A matrix/positioning board also serves as a visual design brief and helps keep the project on course…

…nothing worse than working on something and the client changing directions half way though. once they have agreed to the fundamentals of the design, it’s a lot harder for them to change their mind. It’s a visual/intellectual foundation of sorts.


PS. I’m highly skeptical of focus groups. I stay away from them at all costs…most often it’s garbage in, garbage out, combined with the factor that “people like what they know, don’t know what they like”, the results are often a red herring, to say the least.

I took Craig Vogels class this semester, never really noticed untill now, how well known he is in the design community. Prob should have asked more questions during class.

It is sad because in most cases, it just becomes a tool for evading liability. If the chosen design eventually fails, they will just blame the system that gave it a good score.

Also, instead of pursuing solutions that really answer the issue, designers under such a mechanical system tend to design for the system. They know what the system wants and they do what gets high scores, not what answers the real issue.

Beyond design, look at Asian education systems in general. All the examinations during the 16 year(elementary to college) education process have generated formulae-experts for the most part, not people who can analyze problems and provide solutions.

What’s my process? Unfortunately, I can’t have my own one when I work for a company with all the variables that I have little control of. Nothing really goes as plan because the scope and requirements of the project change all the time. I try my best to help people who I am working for ask the right question and try to take the project through the necessary steps to cultivate the right, mature solution. It’s not a process about myself as a designer. It’s a process between the designer and whoever he is trying to serve.

Evading liability!!!

Don’t you understand that business, as in MBA, is based on metrics. Designers have to use metrics if they are going to be taken seriously by business. While we all have “gut feel” this is an unacceptable system to risk the future of the company on. Making business comfortable working with us by our learning a language they can understand is a must.