Design is commonly misunderstood, very often associated with the fashioning of people, objects or environments and linked to ‘signature’ designers, who apply a styling spell over products. Designs’ ability to make things look good and appeal to customers is proven, but design is so much more than that.
As Chairman of the Design Council, Sir George Cox defined Design as:
Creativity is the generation of new ideas/new Intellectual Property (IP); Innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas; Design is what links creativity and innovation.
It shapes ideas to become practical and commercially attractive propositions for businesses and their customers
This tells us that design is a process and many companies know it’s a route for successful innovation. As with all good innovation processes, it should be open, collaborative, research based and user/customer centred. In the most forward thinking organisations design is used at every level of business; from high level strategy - helping to find new opportunities for growth - to detailed implementation ensuring that every customer experience is as rewarding and productive as it can be.
The design process has evolved and can be applied to developing almost any new product or service. However, design applies equally to early stage research as it does to late stage product development. The key features of the process are outlined below to illustrate how design can be used to turn research into innovation.
Design should always be user focused. By involving the end user in the development and testing of ideas at an early stage (while the product is still just a sketch or a first stage prototype) the risk of failure is lowered and the chances of commercial success greatly improved. It is especially useful in helping teams to define the right applications for a new technology early on in the development process, or in providing a guide on specific features and functions later on in the development process.
Multi-functional team working
The best design teams are multi-functional as this ensures that rounded solutions, which incorporate all points of view, are created and the whole business system considered. Design facilitates multi-functional team working because it is very visual (ensuring the team can develop a common goal) and concentrated on the end user (helping the team to stay on track and focus on the final solution).
Iterative prototyping and testing
The Design process is iterative and concepts should be tested, repeated and prototyped. Ultimately, if the business case is robust, these concepts can make it through to new products, services or components. This brainstorming, multi-disciplinary working, visual management and prototyping process of trial and error helps teams to develop and refine ideas into solutions.
Divergence / Convergence
The design process also actively applies divergent and convergent techniques. Simply put, divergent thinking is identifying the problem and gathering information and convergent thinking is analysing the information and arriving at a conclusion. By testing as many ideas as possible quickly, teams explore the full potential of each opportunity. This is facilitated by techniques such as brainstorming and sketching to explore quickly and broadly. Once all these techniques are bought together, a clear idea will emerge about the challenges ahead and the best route forward.
Visualisation and Design Articulation
At every stage of the design and innovation process the visualisation of ideas is essential. By creating an image, whichever form that may take, not only allows the team to gain clarity, exchange ideas and gather feedback but it also secures buy-in from customers. Good visuals also simplify complex problems and make the idea, product/service or brand look professional even before it is fully formed.
As an Innovation Consultancy, Gill Research & Development utilises design to bridge between creativity and innovation, enabling us to deliver integrated product solutions that exceed the expectations of both customer and user. Contact us to find out more.
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