Design as the new marketing?

December 10, 2008

“Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop new products, services and processes and even strategy”. These are words by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. He is evangelising the idea of what he calls ‘design thinking’.  In an article at the Harvard Business Review he writes:

“As more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meanigful. These experiences will not be simple products. They will be complex combinations of products, services, spaces and information. They will be the ways we get educted, the ways we are entertainted, the ways we stay healthy, the ways we share and communicate.”

 According to Tim, “design” is longer just about styling or aestheticts but more about innovation.  There are more proponents of this idea. For instance, Josphine Green from Philips Design  claims that ‘design’ will be new marketing of the 21st century (as part of here presentation around ‘social innovation’).  The way I intrepret this comment is that tradionally, (product) marketing function is in charge of the product creation process whereas more and more ‘design thinkers’ (should) take charge of this process.

That brings me to the question as to how corporations should (re)organise their product creation and innovation process. From my own experience, typically product marketeers play a central role in the creation process, starting by defining product functionality and specs.  Marketeers often act from a narrow view of the type of products  they (are allowed to) work on (in Wacom’s case, the product marketeer for pen tablets thinks about computer interaction as ways to use pen input with a computer).  It is not hard to imagine that this kind of process results in products that are fairly similar to past products and that real innovation is very difficult to achieve.

According to Tim and Jospehine, design thinkers should play the central role in the creation process. In a collaborative way, they should lead a group of marketeers, engineers and end-users throughout the complete design process. This is not limited to the initial creative fuzzy idea phase, but goes all the way from ideation to implementation. For instance, it includes supporting marketing to design a communication strategy.  

For corporations that do not want to rely on the IDEO’s of this world to create new products, where in the functional lines do you put these ‘design thinkers’. They do not naturally belong in any of the functions such as marketing, development or engineering. Should it be a function in itself? If so, which place in it the hierarchy does it belong to?

By the way, I regard myself as ‘design thinker’, even though I do not have a design background and I do not think of myself as ‘designer’. Maybe it would be better to think of some other term, in direction of ‘creation’ or ‘innovation’. Anyway, I would appreciate any examples of how corporations are dealing with this issue, e.g. how they are organising themselves for the new century.


Team meeting space meets product testing ground

November 3, 2008

This post at Springwise caught my eye: Team meeting space meets product testing ground. The US-based office furniture company Steelcase offers meetings spaces that double as testing ground for their products (such as whiteboards, flipcharts). This is an interesting initiative because of two reasons:

First of all, I believe that there is an opportunity for more inspiring meeting facilities. We have seen enough of those boring and depressing conference centers and hotel meeting rooms for  the many ‘off-site’ events that companies send their employees to. 

This initiative also fits nicely into the trend to let customers try and test your products (and create some brand awareness along the way). I could see this for Wacom as well… How about a Wacom design center that is equipped with Intuos and Cintiq products?  The center could have individual workstations for freelancers and professionals, class room settings for courses and even conference/meeting facilities for creative sessions.  Such a center could also be interesting for partners such as Adobe.  If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment…

Hardware as (free) Service

September 23, 2008

My good friend Ianus Keller talked at Reboot conference about ‘hardware as a (free) service’. Ianus is inspirator and evangelist for Bamboo and has played a crucial role in the making of Bamboo Space. Very interesting talk…


Vodpod videos no longer available.

Could Bamboo become the ‘Wii’ for computer interaction?

June 5, 2008

At Wacom, I am currently working on expanding the user experience of the Bamboo pen tablet. With innovative user interfacing and software development I am trying to open up a whole new world of working with your computer (and go beyond offering a hardware ‘accessory’). Today it struck me that the new direction for Bamboo is very much similar to what Nintendo did with their Wii… Here is why:

The Wii opens up a whole new audiencie to gaming. Now you do not have to be a fanatic gamer to have fun with friends and family. The way games are played relate to the physical world (you play tennis by moving your arms instead of pressing buttons). Also, you are not bothered by technology, it is just simple and works. And is it very social.  As a product, the Wii is basically an interface device (the controller is the key part). From branding point of view, Nintendo does not develop their own games (with exception of the first games), but they gain all the credit for the positive user experience (and not the gaimg companies).

With Bamboo, you do not have to be a graphic artist to express yourself in a playful and fun way. Drawing and writing with a pen is more intuitive than moving a mouse.  The missing piece of the puzzle (and that is what I am currently working on) is to transform software similar to what Wii has done with games. I feel that most software has become overly complex (you need a serious training before you can use Adobe Photoshop). By trying to bridge the virtual and physical world, I want to make the interaction much more simple. For instance, one of the applications that will come out is an online place that mimics your physical desktop and lets your organize your stuff just like moving papers around. Wacom does not have to become a software company but I think that the company should show the (software) industry that new innovative user interfaces could make your life much easier and interaction with a computer more fun (very similar to what Nintendo has shown to game developers).  

Obviously Wacom is not alone to recognize this paradigm shift (Apple is the poster child in simple and fun computer interaction). However, as a relative outsider it is much more easy to create something new and bold (compare what Apple did with iPhone vs Mac). The company should probably be more vocal about our ambition and claim its fair share (anybody knows that multi-pen interaction was developed by Wacom when Jeff Han was still at college?). It will be interesting to see how this continues!

Comments, thoughts, I would be interested in your feedback…!


Living in a Device-Centric World

February 11, 2008

Accenture published an article on Living in a Device-Centric World, a strategic view of an evolving market for digital devices:

“The current market focus on the “three screens” of the consumer—a television in your family room, a PC on your desk and a mobile phone in your pocket—is a new, device-centric way of seeing the digital services ecosystem. It’s a view with the potential to dramatically change the way in which people work, seek out entertainment and interact with one another.

The idea is that each of our screens would have full access to all our digital assets—files, content, applications and so forth. We could view the same content from any screen or, even better, we could use whatever screen was appropriate for the content and for our needs, based on where we were and what we wanted to do. Unless we were cast away on a desert island, we would probably not read a novel on a wristwatch-sized screen—but the idea is that we could if we wanted to.

A device-centric world presents both challenges and opportunities to the industry players involved. Some analysts have predicted that services that cross the three screens of the consumer—at work, on the road and in the digital home—will soon be a multitrillion-dollar business. However, the technology architecture that brings the three screens to life is complex. It’s important to understand both the technological and business changes occurring today if a company is to take advantage of device-centric opportunities to achieve and sustain high performance.

Big Change: Trivergence and Tridgets
The communications, high-tech and media industries are currently struggling to get out in front of a wave of change that may be unprecedented. Competition has always been fierce, but at least the marketplace boundaries were clear. No more. Today, software companies are creating development platforms for wireless communications services. We can buy a phone from a company better known for its airline service. Content companies look like high-tech companies, which look like phone companies. It’s not a marketplace; it’s a rugby scrum.

As the various players try to move the ball forward, all are looking for surer footing. One place to begin is with a better understanding of the device architecture that will make three-screen services possible. Accenture calls this emerging architecture “trivergence,” because its distinctive character is in using the network to separate (1) the physical device from (2) its data and (3) its controls.

To appreciate the importance of the trivergence architecture, compare a portable CD music player with an Apple iPod. The CD player has mechanisms inside that access the data, translate it into sound and send that to your headphones. On the unit itself are various controls that let you choose music tracks, adjust the volume and so forth. Everything is contained within the device.

The iPod, on the other hand, is dependent on the network for its data and controls. You download data—your media files—through a network, and then you control and manipulate those files using a Web-based, soft-panel application. Without the network, the iPod is just an expensive paperweight. Accenture refers to these trivergent devices as “tridgets,” and more of them are entering the marketplace almost every day. Apple has very successfully demonstrated that devices, data and controls—when fully networked—can work together to produce a compelling user experience. “

Basically they point out that you need a combination of ‘hardware, software and services’ to create compelling products.  Nothing new here, I would say… In the remaining part of the article they talk about the opportunities and challanges for the communications industry. For instance, network service providers could leverage their capabilities in end-user billing and customer service (something that companies such as Google and Microsoft can not offer so easily).

After reading the article again, I am thinking to call myself consultant and sell my ‘strategic views’ to large companies sleeping at the wheel (and make lots of money with it). Thanks Stefan for commenting. 


Free mobile communication

October 31, 2007

Free mobile phone calls sounds like a great idea, but how to pay the bill to the operators? Start-up Blyk (founded by an ex-Nokia exec) is exploring a new business model based on advertisment. They have launched a service in the UK for 16 to 24 year-olds, offering free calls and SMS in exchange for receiving up to 6 ‘brand messages’ and adds per day. Focussing on a dedicated user group is an interesting twist, as this makes the adds more valuable…

Strategy of Giving

October 18, 2007

Strategy of Giving is the promising title of a ‘yet to be published’ book. I found it while I was browsing on Slide share (looking for inspiration). It seems a brilliant way to create some attention and buzz for your own book, even before it is finished. I am definetely interested to read it.