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Iain Roberts
  Iain Roberts

Design: An Engine to Drive Growth

2/6/2007 --

Iain Roberts shows how good industrial design builds brands and market share.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Creating a successful brand requires more than visually appealing products. A designer must also consider the holistic experience and contextual use of the product to attract consumers.

Iain Roberts, co-leader of IDEO's Consumer Experience Design Practice, spoke about "Persuading through Great Industrial Design" to students from marketing, communications, engineering and design as part of the 2006-2007 Yaffe Center for Persuasive Communication speaker series at the Ross of School of Business. IDEO is a global industrial design firm whose clients include AT&T, Eli Lilly, Intel, Kraft Foods, Motorola and Proctor & Gamble.

Roberts identified three key elements of industrial design: Aesthetics (how the product looks), ergonomics (how it works) and manufacturing (how it is made). Mass production is what characterizes industrial design.

"These are the tools that we use to make something tangible and be able to put it in someone's hands," Roberts said. "The design process begins with strategic thinking and considering how the problem can be reframed in order to achieve a better result."

Aesthetics, ergonomics and manufacturing are combined with the human factors of empathy, experiences and connections, he said. The designer must consider the consumer's needs (both expressed and unexpressed), desires and self-image.

"One of the most important questions a designer can ask is 'How does someone feel about that?'" Roberts said. "Do people value it, can you make it and can you make money from it?"

Consumers make connections between brand and design, he said.

"The product ultimately defines the brand experience when marketing, advertising and packaging is gone," he said. "The designer must ask companies 'If you had to define yourself, what would your brand be and why?'"

Pangea Organics, a maker of natural soaps and lotions, wanted to expand their market share. IDEO worked with the company to develop a wider range of products and new packaging using recycled materials that built on their brand image. Pangea Organic products are now in full distribution through the Whole Foods retail chain.

"Look to do small amounts that add up to a big thing," Roberts said. "You're looking to give a clear value proposition about who you are and why you're more relevant than the next guy."

The "best in class" award for industrial design goes to Apple, he said.

"Everybody wants to be Apple," he said, sharing IDEOs frequent requests from companies to design products that are the "iPod" of their industry. Apple's design expertise extends to their computers, integrated services such as iTunes and retail stores, the new iPhone and the upcoming Apple TV.

Watch Roberts' presentation "Persuading through Great Industrial Design."

For more information, contact:
Adrienne Losh
Phone: (734) 615-5068