What’s driving design
What’s driving design featuring Mike Cane
Published in Eureka -
Issue: April 2012
Paul Fanning asks Mike Cane (Cambridge Design partnership), and other industry players what trends, drivers and technologies are affecting product development.
What are the first questions you ask about any new design project?
MC: We ask a series of questions and try to cover all six factors that cover design: Does the concept or design meet real user needs? Is the enabling technology appropriate to what we’re trying to do? If it’s not, someone else will compete with something that is appropriate or cheaper or whatever. Is the supply chain behind the product appropriate? Does the product fit the business strategy of the company you’re working with? Does the product display the values of the brand? Is the product going to fit into the market you’re aiming it at?
What we try and do is look at the thing holistically. You can’t just look at the engineering; you can’t just look at the IP; you can’t just look at the technology. You could get all those things right, but if one of the other things is wrong, you’re not going to get the return on investment. The customer is always the most important thing. It’s very tempting in a technology space to fall in love with a nanotechnology or a photovoltaic solar panel, but at the end of the day, you have to bear in mind that the customer is paying, so – no matter how great the technology – that’s where you’ve got to start.
What are the biggest obstacles to successful design?
MC: Corporate lethargy – It’s much easier to do nothing than something. The risks are lower, it’s cheaper. Markets are changing all the time, but people don’t notice slow changes, which makes it easier to do nothing because slow changes don’t force you to do something. In product development, you’ve got to inspire people to do it and give them confidence. That can only be achieved by good preparation and good analysis.
The other one is understanding what customers want, which is more difficult than you’d think. Customers react to what’s around them and to what they’ve already got, but if you want to make a step change, you need to really understand their motivations rather than their current reactions, so you need processes to allow you to do that.
What trends do you see emerging in design?
MC: Emerging economies are opening up big new markets for companies, but those markets have very different drivers. So there’s a challenge there of ‘India has 10% p.a. growth, but what do Indians want to buy? And how do we make it at a price that makes sense?
Sustainability is a key one as well. We’re seeing that as a must-have feature. Ten years ago, one in ten projects had sustainability as a key feature, but it’s every project now.
The other trend is open innovation. We’re finding customers are much, much more comfortable with doing innovative, product development projects with diverse teams – using external teams and companies, outside technology. Previously, large companies did tend to want to do everything in house, but there has been a change. There’s now a much more flexible approach