Our clients often ask about the future of their products. Especially in a world of fast changing technology, being able to predict the market in two or three years is extremely useful for them and their pockets.
We are often asked how we do it and I usually answer that it’s a mix of techniques. Here’s some of what we do in TR & Partners to design our iconic market-changing products:
Don’t know what to do? See what the others are doing!
There are so many speculations about how the new iPhone is going to be, but actually taking a quick look to all the patents that Apple is registering gives you a very clear idea of what they are working on, this is public and is free (almost). Believe me, it’s funny to have pub conversation about bending screens and holograms taken to mobiles but collecting patents usually gives a pretty trustable idea of what is happening, but this is just a small tip for beginners.
If it happens to be in Shenzhen, the paradise of hardware, accelerators and startup and meet Johnny Ive in a bar after dinner it’s even better.
Ask somebody else!
We usually start with a deep research and analysis of the existent market: we make it with interviews, focus groups and forums to understand where the market is supposed to go from the company’s side and from the market side. As an example recently we made a series of panels and interviews for a famous medical company and the idea of the design came actually very early from the words of the interviewed. Even if this method gives a picture of the present and not a projection on the future, it is sometimes useful to understand what the market has and what it would like to have (similar but different!).
In our tested 10 minutes interviews, different subjects coming from different statistical clusters were given a product, a prototype or described a design service and asked to talk freely and describe the product that they were touching. Reading through the lines and analysing their behaviour give us a cloud of informations that we share with the client and usually sparkles new futuristic thoughts.
Who knows the past can predict the future!
A deep qualitative analysis of the market and of where the big players are going is fundamental to design the future. Being used to design different objects in different fields means for us a lot of time understanding the environment and our battle field.
Our qualitative research usually gives a brand positioning chart that helps the company and us to understand where to go. Also understanding the positioning of the Product Life Cycle is important to extend the life of a product and here is where predicting the future is important.
Numbers, numbers, numbers!
This is not just about collecting information, understanding why a black powerbank will be sold more that a white one or knowing how big it needs to be the bevel on corners of a mobile phone is a way to understand the future.
Products are divided by colour, shape, function, price, distribution channel, shelf life and often for what type of values they communicate with their design. Graphs and charts coming from this research are often impressive drivers to predict future market behaviours.
Ok, tell me the trick!
When used as a literary term, synesthesia is a figure of speech in which one sense is described using terms from another. Examples of synesthesia often are in the form of a simile, as this is an easy way to link two previously unconnected images. For example, you might say, “The silence was as thick as a forest.”
For us synesthesia is the perfect way to bring information from one field to another one, to innovate through understanding how interiors of cars work to design a new sofa for the perfect living room. Designing with synesthesia means having a wide range of mental algorithms that can take our brainstorming phase to a whole different level, in which we talk by rhetorical figures and we often ask the question “How would this vase look if it was a Shampoo bottle?”
Synesthesia is why you start to see pictures in your favourite Pinterest board that are not exactly related to your search, it’s the “fuzzy logic” of design thinking.
Synesthesia helps to understand the deepest meanings and subliminal communication of design and through that is the real secret to innovative products.
Synesthesia is the perfect way to get rid of all the doubts about the “colour of next year” without consulting Letraset Pantone. Building a chart of what different fields are designing and being able to understand where the actual product is will give you a clear idea of where it is going.
Remember that many evaluated design environment are dealing with a cycle of a certain amount of years where they replicate themselves and their styles playing with the archetypical image that you have in your mind when you were young and poor and giving it back to you years later when you are considered a spender.
Improving this way of design thinking has been our goal for many years in which we designed game changing and innovative products using more math and analysis, our real driver for creativity.