What’s wrong with design consultancies? Who has it right?

Proof’s in the Puddin’!

Design Council Case Studies:

DMI Case Studies:

IDEO for Shimano:

IDEO for Pantone:

Ziba for Sirius:

Ziba for Kitchenaid:

Continuum for OLPC:

I disagree and I think the market indicates that statement is not acurate. 2 product categories with the highest number of design options also have the greatest variance in price. Automotive and Footwear. Small electrics, home audio/video, and other product categories are fast approaching this.

That is funny, and not what I’m talking about at all, and I think you know that. We are not a passive part of the process. We are not pencils.

Thanks for bringing up those examples…so did the research make those Kitchenaid products that way? or was it a simple idea of a line extension based on an iconic design from the brand’s history? I think it was the second, which is an obvious direction. I think we can boil most of those down to plain old good, common sense strategic thinking with research validation as necessary. The Shimano example is perfect for that (I love that project).

CG, we often talk about design classics on here. Design that is so iconic that it withstands the test of time (like that Kitchenaid mixer Ziba’s entire project was based on). Can you tell me that you feel that any of those projects is that type of design?

A lot of the products we have talked the most about on the boards over the past decade come from what is being called “gen 1” type of design, from the Aeron Chair to the Audi TT.

I get the sense we are not going to convince each other. We both influence the process and larger business decisions daily in our respective worlds. I know you just don’t throw a research document on the table any more than I just lay sketches out. We are both over simplifying to prove our points. What do the rest of you think on this?

Not everyone gets this. I hope people will through this discussion.

Thanks for bringing up those examples…so did the research make those Kitchenaid products that way? … Can you tell me that you feel that any of those projects is that type of design?

You’re right, line-extensions are obvious so don’t count–the Shimano project is a better example.

I think we’re at the dawn of this new era. People are beginning to see how user-experience can be planned and strategically prioritized. The Wii, iPhone etc. The case studies will be growing exponentially in the next decade.

Yo and cg - I think the split between the two you lies inherently in where you work and what you’ve been through as designers…Based on your work, the approach to design projects should be handled differently based on the situation. While I don’t know either of you personally, I’ll do my best to give a fair compare/contrast.

Cg’s case studies (Baxter, United Airlines) are deep systems of experience design. He has worked on projects that require complex problems to be simplified and communicated to clients.

Yo, on the other hand, creates products for one of the best lifestyle brands around - Nike. They are a business with a talented team of people who understand athletes. The intuitive approach is essential to their success. Doing it any other way just wouldn’t work as well.

So depending on what you’re designing (visual comm. for United Airlines or next gen Jordan shoe), it can make a big difference whether you need the six digit strategy or not.

My take: Many great successes in product design (iPod, Wii, etc.) probably originated from ideas by designers based on observation and intuition. But I would guess that they wouldn’t go anywhere within most businesses without at least 100-200K to know they’re headed in the right direction. That’s just a drop in the bucket for most companies.

It seems that frequently in the discussion of innovation or design strategy there is a tendency to denigrate aesthetics, or “styling”. I’m always a little skeptical of this… It’s a bit like modernism rehashed: (in booming basso profundo) “our designs are logically formed and pure… your just shacking your aS5 and choosing colors, you are a mere decorator… a mere stylist”.

There will always be products that win or lose based on style, and style, since it arises from culture is very complicated… not something anyone can do. When he heard I was studying design A CFO of a biotech company told me that, “picking the color of a new widget isn’t rocket science, but deciding what side of the street to put a McDonalds on IS.” hmmm… I’m not so sure that it wouldn’t be easier to find a statistician in India to run regression analysis on your McD’s placement than it would be to find someone overseas to design a new interior for it. Bill Buxton argues that much of Apples turn-around resulted from stylistic, even superficial changes.

Why does one have to promote innovation/strategy at the expense of aesthetics/styling? They are not mutually exclusive.

I have a friends who have Phds in Cognitive Psych Anthro who are working on design projects. Designers would have a hard time competing with them in research and usability, but when a designer is involved in looking at a problem with an eye for the aesthetics of the experience, he or she is back in realm of design’s core competencies.

Great points all, I think this is a good discussion and we have hit on that fundamental divide. Intuitive vs Analytical. It can probably said that to get down the path the fastest you need a combination of approaches at different key points in the process… in the end, the success of the product justifies the process used.

I think the case studies of analytical based processes always look great. Unfortunately intuitive processes don’t seem to document so well. Or are we afraid to show this side of ourselves? Too Wizard of Ozish maybe for mass consumption?

We are forced to talk other people’s language all the time. We frame our arguments up in terms of business and engineering cases. When I get up in front of VP’s and higher, I have to cover off on those arguments, but I try to bring them into our world and talk in terms of what we could do, where we should be, about our ethos, the underlying principals and values of our brand. Usually when framed up like that, in design language, the path seems pretty obvious.

Designers can be evangelists in the process because of our faith in our intuition. We make logical leaps based on data mixed with seemingly irrational thought and believe in the validity of those leaps. When we can tell that story in a compelling way, we influence the path of business and the realm of the possible expands.

Research, sketching, strategy, CAD, etc. They are just tools in the tool box. You have to know when to use the right tools. Some clients need a huge, 6-digit research program to get everyone to go the same direction. Some only need a simple sketch (for now).

IMO, I think both CG and Yo are right (or wrong however you want to look at it). I think that a small group of individuals are tuned in to what is needed and the basic idea comes from there. But in many companies, politics, the board, refinement, validation, or some other factor makes them sign up for a huge design program. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a valid reason for the huge programs, but it is still just a tool. Don’t use a telephone when you really need a hammer.

Some companies just need a simple design. No research, no strategy, no multiple concepts. Just a good design.

The story of the iPod.
So, when I worked at Philips, I heard there was a guy named Tony Fadell who invented the iPod concept. (Matching a MP3 player to an online store where you could buy music.) (Tony Fadell - Wikipedia) He tried for two years to get Philips to produce the concept but after running the research and the business numbers they turned him down. It was just not a good idea. He left Philips and the rest is history.

So one guy came up with the idea, a huge company did the research, said no, and a more risk tolerant company got the job done. (yes, Apple did some research and ran the numbers but their mindset was different) But now Apple runs huge design programs for anything connected with iPod. That is what is needed now. It is the right tool for the job.

So, getting back to the point of this thread, I am sure if Philips had believed in and empowered Tony, he would still be at Philips. Why did he leave? I have a list a mile long, but it would not be in good form to state them here.

Basically, how do we attract and keep good design talent? What have you seen that works?

This may lead to another great question. Are there any great design leaders out there? (besides Steve Jobs) Anyone who can lead? Anyone with a vision?

wow, some really great discussion going here now

Some clients need a huge, 6-digit research program to get everyone to go the same direction. Some only need a simple sketch (for now).

-That really says quite a bit on its own.

Hi all! I am so excited to have found this post!!! I have been creatively brain dead for last 5-6 years. LOL.

I graudated in 1988 (Syracuse) and worked for Digital Equipment Corporation, Henry Dreyfuss and Deskey then came to a crossroad: Grad Design School, MBA or law. I chose law and specialized in intellectual property law.

Then when I applied for jobs at law firms (intellectual property law) no firm appreciated the value of my design background as very useful - many firms hired top 10% from top law schools. I graduated from Syracuse College of law - ok, not too shabby.

Then when I tried to sit for a patent bar exam industrial design was not one of the accepted majors - I tell ya when it comes to industrial design and the law the US is 50 years behind Europe!

By this time, I also found that I was not that marketable to design firms as well. I was too removed from the design world (insofar as design firms were concerned) and lacked “skills” (i.e., CAD skills, etc.) so I was told. What happened to multi-disciplinary approach to design? I think I was about 5 years ahead of time.

It was disheartening to experience that the “real” world didn’t necessarily appreciated my rather unorthodox career path.

So, I created my own lifestyle product, and created my own brand of fragrance line. I designed the bottle, had the bottle made in Italy, put everything together in the U.S., and sold it nationwide via Sephora - everything was going OK until 9-11.

Heck, the fragrance (Merge) even appeard on Ally McBeal! Anyhoo . . . my claim to fame - sorry.

In a nutshell, I now view design, both as a process and end-product, with a fourth eye - the legal eye (1st-art; 2nd-engineering; 3rd-business).

Now, at 44 I am considering “returning” back to the design world. First, I need to catch up to awesome 3D technology so I don’t feel left out). Perhaps even grad school this time around, but too many bills!!!

Anyway, I am excited and overwhelmed at the same time to come back to design. I feel like I’m coming back home, however.

Please excuse my digression, but I am just delighted to have found intellectually and creatively stimulating folks, again!

When I was at Deskey I added an extra feature to my usual presentation (ideations and models) to our Procter&Gamble client: STATISTICS (learned from business school).

I conducted a design analysis and survey by quantifying what would have otherwise been a creative (qualitative) presentation. The presentation went surprisingly well. The statistical data along with “visuals” spoke to them, literally.

I believe, as someone alluded in earlier post, sometimes it’s the client that dictates how a design firm chooses to communicate ideas be it a simple product design or a massive project study. This is one very reason why we, industrial designers, learn various disciplines; to not only come up with solutions, but to communicate effectively with a diverse set of clients.

In other words, even when good design intuition leads to a creative solution that intuition may have to be translated into another "language (vis a vis, “project”) to convince a client. And, so be it - “it” often leads to more revenue.

I can do the strategy stuff but as a small one man firm, most of my clients come to me asking for 3 concepts, pick one, do CAD and renderings.

I end up giving them some ideas they hadn’t expected inteh design process but rarely do they come asking for the strategy stuff at the outset. I don’t think they usually expect that when they are looking for indedpendant ID firms. Many are start-ups with a tight budget and looking for a straight from A to B ID.

I’d really like to get a part of my Client’s sales they make from my innovations and designs but haven’t been all that successful at trying to get royalties. Most jsut want to pay you one time and be free of it. If they agree to give you residuals, they rarely follow through. I’d like IDers to be more involved and get more than hourly rates and fixed fees but with so many others willing to do stuff the old way, it’s a bit tough to get clients who calue you enough to give you more of the pie. Oh well…it’s going to take a monumental shift by the industry to make it a norm to get a piece of sales.

Well, how about an industrial designers union? :sunglasses: Afterall, we are talent. There are writer’s guild, actor’s guild, etc.

Basically, it seems that creative people are not necessarily wired like those who go into wall street per se. I sure didn’t go into design because of money. The sheer joy of being able to articulate in 3 dimensions was my motivation, and I’m sure it’s the same for many other designers.

I did not read the whole thread but it seemed like MP’s question a while back did not produce a flood of results. I think it is a valid question…although not easy to answer. Here is the question again:

“What do you think these firms are charging per project? I am curious because I want to be close and not too low or high. Lets say, for example, it’s a computer router case restyling gig, 3 concepts in 3D, client chooses one and you refine and final deliverables are renderings and surface CAD. Would 1 router casing project be around $15K? $25K? $30K?, $40K, 50K? or 60K?”

The answer depends on how well the user and position are defined. Generically speaking if they know who they are as a brand, who they want to buy the product and have a strategy for compelling that purchase than the number to do the work is probably between $40,000 and $50,000. If they are still in the process of figuring those things out it is more. It’s a simplification but I think it is pretty close.[/i]

Royalties is a dodgy area. Is your client honest? As regard offering a full service - yep we can do this, but does the client want it all from one company?

IMO, they don’t like to put all their eggs in one basket. Especially the big companies. They want you to sign an NDA and they don’t want to let you know too much or have too much ownership of the project.

For instance, I did a project over a year ago, I sign an NDA, I find them the right agent, wth the perfect factry for the project, I advise them about many other aspects of the project, put them in tocuh with the relevant people, do the research, design, write the specs, deliver the project, work with the graphic designer. I hear nothing, see no sample,then, 14 months later,out of the blue I see the product on hypebeast. I had no idea it was even launching. Unusual? Maybe!

But it doesn’t surprise me. I find I have to do my project and that’s that. I’ve been doing this a long time now, although I don’t disclose my clients identities to other clients, it doesn’t take too much sleuthing to find out who I’m working for as the trade is so small, so I can’t blame them, personally for being so secretive.

Designers are notoriously bad at maintaining a consistent dialog with the client after the project is done. Not hearing a word about a product launch is not unusual but it really should not happen.

Hopefully you build a rapport with your client as you are working with them and continue the conversation even when there is no project. This is how we get new projects and referrals.

This is not an attack on shoenista. It is a warning of a bad habit most of the design firms I have worked for are guilty of.

I guess it is a bad habit, I didn’t really see it that way. Anyway, that client has since been in contact so we are back having a dialogue again.

Thanks for pointing this out though - it is something that needs attention! :slight_smile: