The Evolution of Consumer Centric Product Design

Around the mid-2000s, the business view of product design underwent a transition moving from an aesthetic ‘nice to have’ and sometimes an afterthought, to a value driver that was suddenly thrust into pole position as a serious priority for business leaders. Corporations that embraced design-led strategies, including Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola, beat the performance of the S&P 500 by a shocking 219%. Soon the design thinking movement erupted, helping to usher in the rise of the full-service agency. Suddenly professional designers were shifted from the interface to a new expectation that they should own the entire experience of a product. The benefits of sustainable product design also fell under the spotlight. 

Focus On Empathy

Executives became more concerned with how they could adapt their approach to business strategy. Today, customer-focused product development is standard practice but it’s an exciting time to be a designer nevertheless. There are no shortcuts so designers must think creatively, have deeper empathy for customers, and be more relaxed with ambiguity in their quest to dream up innovative customer-centric ideas. Drawing up a map of the ‘system’ is an engaging way to develop a shared understanding with the wider team. The 5 Ps are a helpful framework to guide teams in exploring customer needs from multiple perspectives People, Place, Product, Performance, and Process.

Designers conduct exploratory research via direct customer interviews, contextual inquiries, shadowing, and journaling. They learn from a suitably large sample group of customers who switched to a rival product, and from consumers who have declined to even use a specific product dividing groups by size, retention, industry, and other relevant aspects. When the designer has collected all necessary research data it’s time to begin synthesizing and drawing meaning in the form of insights, while striving to remove personal bias. The idea is to keep insights simple and link them back to real stories to help build familiarity. 

Design Thinking Techniques

In their never-ending quest for smart design products, teams also create empathy maps using the collected research data, which helps with the development of micro-segments and behavioral archetypes. Often they will map these insights and archetypes to the current user experience with a journey map, which in turn evolves into a service blueprint. These highlight pain points and opportunities for different types of customers. Many design teams also use powerful ideation methods like Mindmapping, New Rivers, Disruptive Brain Loops, Creative Matrix, and Crazy8s. Often they weigh up the resulting ideas with techniques like Visualize the Vote.

This is just a glimpse into the world of Design Thinking. When the philosophy of design is combined with strategy and innovation, the chance of identifying a valuable solution dramatically increases. 

Are you looking for a full-service agency experienced in consumer-centric product design? If so, please contact Shark Design today for a free consultation. 

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