About ten years ago I got really frustrated that so many new product development projects were failing to make it through the funnel; one design house we worked with had been commissioned to work on 21 projects, only one of which made it to market and most of them failing well into the capability phase.
To utilise a rich soup of tacit and explicit knowledge I worked with a couple of collaborators to develop tools for the new millennium (I can say that now, but originally it was to address our dis-functional team working and the low hit rate of successful new projects).
The Design Pyramid evolved from a discussion about satisfying consumer needs and how Maslow had researched an put forward the hypothesis of a hierarchy of needs. We consulted his work and came up with this:
Starting at the lowest level we can express "What are they looking for?" in terms of the consumer's experiences and demands, for instance:
I want it when and where I need it [function]
I want to be able to rely on it [reliability]
I want it to be simple and easy to use [engagement]
I want to like it and relate to it [personality]
I want it to say something about me [icon]
… and I want to love it!
We can begin to develop a deeper understanding of how our total product/service is satisfying or exceeding consumer expectations by looking at each level of the experience and the contribution made by the technology, packaging system and communication.
We may unearth some really interesting consumer insights tand begin to map them onto the Consumer Experience face.
We can then look at how the consumer experience is constrained or enabled by the other faces.
As we discover the possibilities of new and different technologies we can look at the enablers and constraints that they may offer. We can look at how we wrap the technology in a useful and pleasing form or packaging system.
Also we can look at the affect of existing or new communication channels and the way we exploit them, with the affordances of the other pyramid faces, etc.
We can also ask ourselves "What is an excellent product?" which enables us to explore the mapping of excellence versus what is available now, identifying the gaps between them.
So using Design Space ensures the team, in a clear and practical manner, understands, evaluates and optimises the relationship between the Consumer Experience, Technology, Packaging System and Communication in order to define a portfolio of opportunities for closing the gap between the current product and an excellent product. Services can be approached in a similar manner.
Although Maslow originally asserted that people satisfied their lower level needs, starting at the lowest level, before moving up, it has become apparent that individuals actually make quite complex trade-offs across levels.
If we deconstruct the hierarchy and think of it as three sets or spheres of needs:
then we get a better perspective of the consumers trade-offs going on between the material and social needs and the needs of personal growth. We reach a decision by consciously or unconsciously making trade-offs between our various needs and wants, so we can regard our needs - material, social and personal growth - as overlapping and interacting:
Hence the in spite of reviews that heap praise on product Y for having more features and performance than product X (more than meets people's material expectations)... droves of consumers actually buy X because it more than meets their social and personal expectations. This also makes it pretty difficult for the producer of Y to change direction and put together an offer that the consumer finds attractive and authentic and more particularly do it again and again - think RAZR. (NOTE: the producer needs to change as well as the product stream!)
Using Design Pyramid helps uncover the gap between what the experience the consumer may want and need compared with what we actually offer; and then allows us to look for gap-closing ideas, concepts, prototypes, stories, etc., using Design Space to ensure we are exploring the maximum amount of territory to optimise our solutions.