During the late 1980's and early 90's the changing socio-economic factors driven by globalisation in general, and regionalisation in particular had a great impact on the rules that conditioned the framework of new product design. I was involved in plastic packaging design at the time and realised something was going on when the task of applying the new rules of blow moulded pack design led to the destruction of the aesthetic designs devised by external packaging design houses and marketing working in concert. Diagnostic activity made us realise that the rules of the game were changing rapidly. The rules traditionally used by design houses with the support of marketing meant the gap between what was needed and what was offered was increasing over time; it was inevitable that how we designed and developed the packaging needed to change. The additional unknown was that our group was unsure of the new rule book as it was an emergent situation changing over time as we iterated around the challenge. In effect we had moved from a set of projects that, if plotted on the Design Diamond matrix would have been a point in 'painting-by-numbers', for manufacture and 'making a movie' in marketing development, to a 'sometimes a quest', but often stumbling in a 'fog' even challenging the aesthetic- a situation we thought of as 'everything to play for'.
We realised that we could classify our challenges as 3 sets of factors:
Aesthetics: crudely- the shape, etc.
Geometrics: pallet fit, shelf fit, filling line fit, ergonomics, interaction of product-packaging, ullage, etc.
Structural: warehouse stacking, hydrostatic bulge, capping performance, etc.
shown in the heading illustration.
We used the diagram as a tool to explain what is going on to all the people involved in making the project a success.
Design houses tended to live in the aesthetic space, whilst marketing inhabited the geometric space(but at a local level).
We acted as a proxy for the people affected by the factors in structural space..... manufacturing, supply chain, in-use, etc.
Many of the factors live in more than one space. For example, ergonomics can be influenced by any of the factors. Structural integrity can be compromised by aesthetics; aesthetics by geometrics and so on. We needed to move into and play in the deltoid shape where all 3 spaces overlap so we can search for optimal trade-offs.
Picture uploaded by myrtle_avenue_brooklyn. Used with thanks under CC.
Another change catalysed by the pressures of design rework resulting of the destruction of the 'old' rules was the start of earlier inclusion of key players in the total product innovation process. This meant that my team's impact moved from being involved after the designs were agreed between marketing and the design house to being actively involved in the ideas phase first as referees with the new rule book and then as orchestrators of the new interactions.
We developed this approach into Design4Excellence; nobody was keen on the name so I now call it Design@The_Edge.
Fast forward to the morning of 12th April, I was browsing the Daily Telegraph magazine in the Courtyard Coffee House and found this article:
High Concept : In her new book 'Process' tracing 50 classic designs from idea to finished object, Jennifer Hudson describes the development of Konstantin Grcic's Miura bar stool from rough sketch to plastic wonder.
Here is an extract from the article:
"Grcic is an intuitive designer. Once he has made a model, he can assess its form and aesthetics straight away.; whether it has potential or is feasible, and where the design could lead. For example one of the features of Miura is that it stacks, but it was not conceived this way. It was only after creating a built structure that Grcic saw that it would take a slight adjustment to add this feature. Once Grcic had established the overall geometry, the computer was used for modelling the Miura's complex freeform surfaces. During this phase, heavy use was made of rapid prototyping facilities. CAD (Computer-aided design) data was fed into laser-sintering machine making it possible to produce a series of life-size models.
Grcic develops prototypes from an early stage, first to check proportion and then to make ergonomic, structural and aesthetic tests. Software may appear to model a form perfectly, but it is only when it is viewed in 1:1 that physical problems become apparent. This was particularly the case with Miura, whose structural complexity, soft surfaces and refined curves were difficult to judge on the computer. \once the full-size model was created, the stool was judged top-heavy. Parallel to the design process, CAD files were forwarded to the structural engineers, who performed both static and dynamic stress simulation to test that the stool was safe and stable.
After a year of development, in 2005 Miura was considered ready for production. Initially it was thought the stool would need to be gas-injection moulded, as the thicker sections such as the legs, needed to be hollow. This would have involved a very expensive mould. After further consultation an alternative plastics engineer was found who could inject the plastic solid. It was a risk, as so much plastic, once ejected from the mould, could distort during cooling. the radical injection technique needed fine adjustment and a lot of pressure, but it eventually succeeded in cutting production costs considerably."
The tool is made from steel in five parts to mould the complex geometry of the stool.
I assume the pictures in The Telegraph Magazine are from Jennifer Hudson's book.
"Konstantin Grcic creates industrial products widely described as pared down, simple, minimalist. What sets him apart from the minimalism in fashionable currency today is that he defines function in human terms, combining maximum formal strictness with considerable mental acuity and humour."
The lessons learned in using our triumvirate of factors was that people could take on-board the evolving factors if we treated the evolving set as tacit knowledge that needed to be transferred through face to face discussion around the diagram; not as a list. We can also note how similar the spaces and factors apply in a more general sense as exemplified by the practices of Konstantin Grcic and his team.. the video also reminded me of Charles and Ray Eames way of working with clients and technology... but that's another story.