My quest for consumer-centric design at Dutch Design Week 2011

With a focus on the involvement of consumers in the development of new products and services, it was great to visit the 10th edition of the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven this week. I attended two of the more than 300 events to discover how design is fulfilling the needs of the end-user, the Design as Service symposium and the Graduation Show of the Design Academy. Continue reading for some impressions…

Design as Service

Service Design is, by definition, an activity where the needs and motivations of users are the starting point in the creation of relevant and engaging interactions between companies and their consumers. This field undergoes the interesting move from a company focus, building services around the existing product portfolio, to a user focus, where products are created to service their needs. It was great to see that both brands represented by the keynote speakers are collaborating with us in bringing the consumer to their boardroom.

Johan Sanders, innovation director within Sara Lee, kicked of the plenary session by sharing some cases on open innovation and co-creation. From taking inspiration from the habits of their 55+ consumers for their Senseo range to a collaboration with the Design Academy for food service machines, Sara Lee is definitely exploring new ways of doing innovation. We share the belief that it’s important to connect with natural communities of brand lovers to collaborate in the development of new products and services. Sanders has the experience that consumers can only reflect, while designers have the ability to look into the future and create. At InSites Consulting we are convinced that consumers can not only inspire designers to come up with new ideas, they can also take on an active role in this ideation process. Connecting both might be the key to help brands in combining relevance with uniqueness.

Next up was Paul Gardien, the vice-president of Philips Design, with a vision on how to design for tomorrow; rethinking value in a changing landscape (Paper in PDF). Conclusion? The current societal context of empowered consumers challenges organisations to develop a co-creative innovation culture and to provide users with a platform to engage users in the development and evolution of the brand. In the future our knowledge economy will move to a transformation economy, where companies should anticipate on the increasing awareness of consumers to socio-environmental issues to make a difference.

Graduation Show of the Design Academy

With the vision of these two established brands in mind, it was time to check out the emerging talent at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Next to conceptual creations and objects merging pure beauty with function (eg the I-Joist of Steven Banken), I spotted three approaches in consumer-centric design. A lot of designers take inspiration from human behaviour to create a surprising and engaging experience. One example is Me-lo-dy by Jeriël Bobbe, a range of relief paving stones with a composition of different openings in distance and depth, generating a ‘symphony’ when you roll your suitcase over them.

Design is at its best when it addresses real needs, one of the creations standing out by its simplicity in anticipating the needs of the elderly is TOON, a music player by Kyra Meilink, designed especially for this target group. By integrating modern technology in a recognisable box, carers and family can put familiar songs on a memory card for the elderly to enjoy. The result stands out by connecting their metaphor of a music player with ease of use.

In their mission to shape the future, the graduates of the Design Academy already touch upon the previously mentioned concept of transformation. There’s a vital role for design in connecting the everyday life and needs of consumer with their increasing awareness for socio-economic and socio-environmental issues. Projects like the Repair it Yourself shoes of Eugenia Morpurgo set the tone in empowering consumers to contribute to local solutions for global problems.

Links in this article for further reading


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