Having collaborated or/and developed Products across various industries for Companies ranging from startups to SMEs and Fortune 500 in Asia, Europe and N.America, in a series of 7 posts, we share Factors we experienced and affected our Design and Product Development processes.
Here, in our 1st post, we focus on “COMPANY”. We identify Companies as living organisms with their own distinctive characters, decision making processes and operations.
disclaimer: The examples presented below are nor Projects/Products 03 designed/developed unless otherwise stated. All rights remain with their owners.
BUSINESS STRATEGY - Essentially, a Product, demonstrates through its form and functions, a Company’s Business Strategy. Therefore, every single aspect of it should reflect any strategic decisions. Look at tobacco companies how they are transforming their industry. PMI for example, is restructuring its Business Strategy by introducing iQOS, an e-heating smoking system. This transformation is boldly reflected via iQOS’s radically new Product Architecture comprised by an electronic device and its dedicated tobacco units, suggesting new and distinctive User-Product interactions.
BUSINESS MODEL - How can an abstract term, usually represented as a .doc MS Word file, to be reflected to the form of an object? An interesting example, but not good Business-Model / Hardware-Product as it was just discontinued,  is the Amazon’s Dash Button. Its design serves 100% the Business Model that envisioned and created it. A HaaS, compact IoT button to fit to any space, displaying permanently the product’s logo to be purchased and a sticky back surface to allow its attachment on cabinets, walls, devices etc.
PRODUCT PORTFOLIO FIT - Unless we are talking for a single-product brand or a startup, every new Product ought (in most cases) to complement commercially the existing Products that comprise a Company’s Product Portfolio. This demand will per-determine the Product’s typology, functions, features, materials, design language, even colors. So, in reality, the product development process seldomly starts from a blank sheet as there are always guidelines to be followed for strategic purposes.
It is not widely known, fashion brands, do not make their money from their haute-couture or pret-a-porter clothes, but from the plethora of accessories they offer, like bags and fragrances.These Products, introduce the brands to a wider audience, while they provide great profit margins to them. Fendi, known for its fur (fake fur nowadays), seamlessly and strategically applies its signature material to its clothes, its bags and to decorating bag accessories.
RESOURCES - When developing and designing a product it is fundamental that all the spectrum of the Company’s Resources is taken under consideration. Its HR, accumulated Knowledge, Experiences, its Network and Suppliers just to mention few. These will eventually prescribe the Product’s overall presence, what can be done and how. Many Companies, startups especially, neglect or underestimate the Resources required and conceptualize designs and products that are difficult for them to bring to Market. On the other hand, shall appropriate Resources are identified and wisely employed, then not only do they facilitate in Product development, but also become assets and competitive advantages.
Gogoro is a Taiwanese startup that in 2015 introduced an all electric scooter with exchangeable battery system in dedicated stations. It took advantage of Taiwan’s scooter industry know-how and network, advanced component and consumer electronic industries experience, retail network (mainly convenient stores locations like Family Mart/7-11 as battery stations), consumer maturity and market size to develop, design and pilot test its product.
COMPANY CHARACTER - A Product has to fit to the Company’s character. Attention, we do not talk about brand image, but about the character of the people inside the Company. The Management, Sales, Engineers and anyone who will be asked to stand by the Product to support it, co-develop it, sell it and promote it. Designers and Development Teams have to design, develop Products that comply not only with market, user needs but also with the Company’s personality.
How many Companies you think would have the courage to develop and sell the Juicy Salif, this polarizing impractical lemon squeezer, when what they may asked the designer to design was... a tray? Alessi did have the Character to accept such attitude and Product proposal, so since the ‘90s, Juicy Salif still is its best selling product. Perfect match for Alessi, but for another Company, this iconic design would be considered as a joke.
BUDGET - During Product development many decisions have to be made based on the Company’s financial abilities. These will determine the Product’s features, production methods, materials, logistics, promotion etc. The Designers and Development Team, right from the very beginning, should calculate costs so that they will design and develop based on the aforementioned factors. Crowdfunding websites are full of delusional creators that presented and funded wonderful dreams, only to be crushed the moment they move on to realize them.
When we designed COIN4 iphone case for a Taiwanese small lifestyle brand, we tried to differentiate the product without adding any extra cost. The Brand had no budget for marketing. The design was so impactful that the Brand, without any extra marketing activity, managed to expand from only local to global Markets in Asia and Europe.
TIME-TO-MARKET - Each Company seeks to ride the wave of market opportunities, therefore, accordingly defines its Time-to-Market. This time span will define whether there is enough time for research, radical new ideas, experimentation, user-testing and so on, or if the new Product development will need to follow a mainstream process. Companies should take under consideration that the outcome, most likely, will be analogous to the development Time dedicated. Also, the correlation of Cost-of-Change vs Time indicates a steep increase in Cost as development progresses and therefore “fast,” does not necessarily mean “cheap”.

ECONOMY-OF-SCALE - All Companies are looking to reduce development, production, operation and maintenance costs by sharing architecture and components among various Products across their portfolio. In this case, the Development Team’s challenge is to build a distinctive product that its characteristics and looks need to balance between cost (sharing parts) and differentiation (from the rest of the family Products). For example, the Seat and Skoda teams had to work on the design developed from VW for their own examples of VAG Group’s city-car triplets, targeting to different price market-segments.
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