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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The 'Design my Wish' Project- Calls for collaboration

I am reproducing here the content of a conversation that I posted on www.theworldcafecommunity.org
I am seeking collaboration to develop an idea I have for my "Design a Wish" project.
Apart from being a concept that I am excited about, I am experimenting with the use of social media in designing solutions that have mass appeal.
I'd like to see how or whether this idea can take off, simply by putting it out into the global community on the internet.
Eventually I 'd like to relate my experiences about a world where we share ideas in an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding and tolerance for people from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.

So read on and please reply here or directly to my email address if you wish to be private:
shariali555@yahoo.ca
Thanks!

I have been mulling around an idea in my mind and want to throw it out to you for comments and feedback.

For want of a better name, let's call it the "Design my Wish" Project for now.

I want to use a design thinking approach and solicit open collaboration in developing this idea. It would be an exercise in harnessing the power of the internet to bring together minds from all over the world to design and work through an idea.
This idea centres around product design issues and impacts on everyone.

The challenge:

As consumers we have all wished at some point that somebody would invent something to solve a particular problem we have.
It could be something for the kitchen, the car, our workspace, shoes, baby or anything under the sun.
There are innumerable products and devices which have been designed to take care of our needs, but some how they either come up short, or miss some functionality that we want.

Design companies traditionally work with market research and design teams who conduct focus groups and other market research to determine what the trends are, in order to brainstorm the next new product for the market.
So traditionally they design what they think we need based on their market research, and there are many companies which specialise in market research, as you know.

The Idea:

What if there were a place where we the consumer and end user, could post up our ideas for a design we need to make life easier. Everyone and anyone could go to this one place and state what it is they want to help solve their issue (I'm talking consumer items to begin with).
It could be a concept similar to craigslist where people say what they are looking for, but in this case seek a design solution.
An example could be like a problem I described on my last blog here:
http://my2senseandcentsmaking.blogspot.com/2010/06/ive-been-thinkin...
(This is about how women need something like a tiny stocking which
only covers the tips of their toes, to prevent the nail polish from
getting rubbed off when wearing shoes).
And see:
http://my2senseandcentsmaking.blogspot.com/2010/06/how-women-shop-e...
(Where I talk about how I wished for a device that looked like an e-reader with the functionality of a pc, and then the ipad came out. It does not have the functionality I wished for but it sure looks like it, and that's a start!)

I know some companies already use their websites and blogs to tap into customer feedback on their own products and service and use this as a means to improve product design and internal efficiency etc.
However 'Design my Wish' is about us taking the initiative to tell the designers what we need before they design products for us. And our wishes would all be found in one central location. It's similar to the way that craigslist is one location that everyone knows about, where they can post what they are looking for.
It would be a growing global field where designers can go and look for seed ideas to germinate into what will eventually become a product to take to market. It would supplement current market research methods.
So it would serve both the consumer and the designer and manufacturer.

How to make it work:

I am soliciting the help of anyone who knows about website development (not just design ), business development, marketing, and any other skills and expertise that would be necessary to grow this idea.
My desire is to use social collaboration to work through issues and come up with an appropriate business model.
Eventually this would become a case study in how to harness the power of global intellect to work harmoniously on a project simply by leveraging the power of social media (or something like that!).

We could use a blog forum or something that is free and simple like google wave to capture the conversations. Or we could use any better idea that will allow us to communicate easily.

The important thing to note is that everyone can contribute and each person's contribution is of value.
Questions help us to anticipate and deal with issues we may not have thought about.

I would really appreciate feedback from everyone here. Feel free to refer to anyone who might be of help.
I will accept emails directly to my email address as well:
shariali555@yahoo.ca

Thanks for reading and I look forward to having conversations with you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How to find out what your customer wants

I've been thinking of an idea that is so obvious that I wonder that it's not common practice, or if it's done at all.
This is my two cents for designers and manufacturers who would like to get into the minds of their customers.
Why not put a page on your website where customers can say what they would like you to design for them.
Seems to me hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent by design and manufacturing companies annually trying find out what end users want. Ethnographic studies and focus groups among others are conducted to generate new concepts and ideas for the next new product.
However as a consumer, I know exactly what I need and what I cannot find in the market and I am dying to tell you so.
So why not give us all a forum where we can post up our ideas, needs, wants and wishlists.

Take for example, a woman's need for something to protect nail polish from rubbing off her nails when wearing closed shoes. (I actually had a woman ask me about this in a dance class several years ago).
For some reason, you put in immense elbow grease to get the nail polish off with remover, but it comes away effortlessly when it should not.
There are lots of fine articles for feet but what women need is something like a fine stocking which covers only the nails of the toes and which will not show above the top of the shoe.
There is widely available a slip-on stocking which goes on just over the foot but it tends to slip off from the heel when walking, or it's too hot for summer, and peeps out over the top of the shoe. In a word, "unsuitable".

Realising that Dr Scholl and the stocking companies were just not up to the task, I decided to take a trip to the neighborhood of those most inventive of people: Chinatown!
And there they were- the perfect little nail polish savers that fit discretely over the nails without peeping out of the shoe.
Not only that, but there were tiny stocking parts made to fit around the foot like a band, and some that could be worn with open toe shoes and sandals to protect your feet without being visible.
Some are also to be found at the Pacific Mall in Toronto.

You have to give the Chinese credit. They may make cheap imitations and flood the market with designer knock-offs in clothing and accessories. But when it comes to household products and accessories to nip, taper and tuck women into their clothes and shoes, these people must be applauded for their inventiveness.
They come up with common sense solutions that are not paralled in the West. I would love to investigate the sources of the innovations. Where do the ideas come from and to what extent if at all, is it a design thinking process. Who comes up with new concepts, and how do the needs of the end users find their way to the designers.
(And while I'm at it, who invented bubble tea?
Have to say it Starbucks- bubble tea trumps your watery iced teas any day!)

In the meantime however, I'll settle for a section on the website of each company that designs products, where customers can post up wishes for design solutions to problems.
Wouldn't it save time and effort if the head of design and research could find out exactly what customers need all in one place. This way he/she can detect the trends in what people want and plan what designs need to be worked on in the upcoming business year.

How women shop- An ethnographic observation

A few weeks ago I was out to dinner with some fine ladies and the conversation turned to buying laptops. An interesting point struck me about the way women make certain buying decisions, and it is not based on hormones.
Alice (not her real name) pointed out that she had been in the market for a laptop with certain specifications which need not concern us here. Now Alice apparently had some leeway with spending money, so was not limited to the cheapest choice. However Alice pointed out that despite the fact that one brand and model had all the features she desired, she actually decided on another one which was just a little more elegant looking, and which did not have quite the capacity of the other. "It was just prettier!"

That reminded me of the reason why I had already decided that my next device would be an ipad rather than a netbook.
(For the record I got neither, after some education on their respective capacities).
From the moment I (a pc user) witnessed the launch of the ipad through a live streaming blog site early in the year, I (like a million others apparently, who bought it), developed a deep yearning for its light, sleek, transportable and sexy design. To my untrained mind, thinking like the average non-tech savvy consumer, this was freedom to carry around all the information I would need, in my handbag. And to access  that info on a large enough screen that was not a blackberry or iphone would make all the difference.

Just days before I had been complaining about the weight and design of my clunky laptop which was seriously compromising my mobility after work hours. The thing was so heavy that I could not contemplate going anywhere but straight home to dump it, after a day of working with it. It was impossible to make a few stops on the way home to get groceries, meet a friend, catch a movie or anything else. It certainly imposed restrictions on a city lifestyle where one gets around by foot or by subway.
So I had been dreaming of a device that was no bigger than an e-reader, when Steve Jobs announced the launch of the ipad.
I felt like a prayer had been answered!
Someone pointed out that if size and weight was a problem , why not just get a netbook?
But know what... How ugly is a netbook compared with the ipad.
Put a sleek device like an ipad next to a cute little netbook, and cute suddenly appears ugly.
So I the pc user was prepared to cross the floor, just for the sake of beauty.

Having said all that, I sadly trekked backed to the pc camp when I realised that the ipad is not actually a business machine. I now await delivery of my new small screen notebook as I also learned that a netbook is not a true pc.
I am a bit disappointed that I'm limited to black as that vendor did not have it in white.
How I would have loved to have an uncommon pristine white little laptop.
But for the designers out there, consider making a really elegant gold coloured one and watch what happens to sales.

As a total non sequitur  I noted an amusing difference in the way men and women shop for handbags when I owned a retail store a couple years back.
Women would hold the bag against their leg in front the mirror and make the decision based on how it looked against their person.
The boyfriends/husbands however, would examine the details of construction of the handbag and recommend the purchase to their partners.
How's that for an ethnographic observation!