Establishing a Creative Economy
By Steve Masterson
Issue 6 Winter 2010
Steve Masterson, COO of Kiska, discusses the need to balance the desires of designers with the desires of consumers and our environment. Masterson offers a brief history of product design and speaks to its ability to create desire in consumers. He emphasizes the need for organizations to marry their business and design strategies in an effective, sustainable, and eco-conscious manner.
‘Designing Desire’ implies two things: creating a design that responds to the rational and technical demands of a product, and creating desire in people for that product. Companies that develop an integrated design process to capture that emotion within their design strategy create desire for products that people will want to possess.
Product designers understand desire. They work to align the technical demands and ergonomics of a product with targeted, tailored and enticing aesthetics. A good design captures the attention of the user. It has the ability to stimulate sales, influence emotion and develop brand value. Great design meets desire at the point of sale. It communicates and anchors a company’s positioning and its activities beyond the immediate product benefit. It creates an emotional connection with the consumer. Emotions stimulate the mind and help people to process information. Using design to help customers make sense of millions of competing messages, shapes, ideas, colors, textures and concepts is essential to managing desire.
Desire and Product Development
In 1995, when the idea of the compression of audio files that occupied less disk space on hard drives was technically realized, it was far away from being a revolution of the music industry and was not a product in the classical sense. It was a long and hard process but its standardization finally boosted the development of digital music players. Today, the MP3 market thrives. The MP3 has revolutionized the way we listen to music. It has shaped our desire to listen while traveling on public transport or walking, at the gym or even in our cars through our car audio system.
But shaping desire takes time. It took a long time for the widespread distribution of the mobile phone. Its development began in 1926 with a telephone service in German trains between Hamburg and Berlin. The first car phones were available in 1958. Their prices exceeded 50% of the price of a car. With the introduction of digital radio networks covering a large area in the late 80s, smaller devices came to the market. Today, the number of mobile phones has exceeded the number of people in the western world. A combination of advanced technology and improved design has encouraged desire. The mobile phone is a new solution to an ancient need, the need to communicate and connect.
But the future will require that strategic design meet new needs. Global developments such as climate change and a decline in available resources have alerted customers to the need to act with greater social responsibility and to aspire to a more aware and sustainable lifestyle. Meeting the needs of the future now requires companies to connect their business strategy to their design strategy. Designers can help people emotionally experience the thing that the strategy seeks to describe. Therefore, organizations need to make design strategic.
Designing with, and Creating Desire: KTM’s X-Bow
Organizations can benefit from the desire of designers to push boundaries and they can derive strategic benefit from Integrated Design Development. One example of this is Kiska’s conception of KTM’s X-Bow. Kiska has a lot of experience in designing and developing motorbikes and scooters for various companies, one of which is KTM. They have had a working relationship with KTM for 18 years and possess a deep understanding of their brand and product line. Kiska helped to create it. One evening while celebrating the successful launch of an ATV somebody suggested that the move from an ATV to a car couldn’t be that big. “A car is ‘simply two motorbikes stuck together.’ ” From that moment, the seed of an idea had been planted. Armed with the desire to be successful and using an integrated design development process, Kiska set about designing KTM’s first car. The desire of the designers set out to meet the desire of the consumer.
“A combination of advanced technology and improved design has encouraged desire. The mobile phone is a new solution to an ancient need, the need to communicate and connect.”
The DNA of the KTM brand is “Ready to Race.” Kiska knew that KTM’s heritage was motorbikes; an experience that had to be woven into the design. The first step was to look at the existing car market to identify whether there was a potential market segment for a KTM car. Kiska researched the latest techniques, materials and components used in automotive manufacturing, and quickly identified a segment of automobile production where the desire for a KTM product would already exist. The team then coupled this research with the “Visual Product Language” they had developed for their motorbikes and used this as the guiding light for the brainstorming of a potential design direction.
The direction was born, and the product became a motorbike with four wheels. It used an avant-garde, carbon fiber monocoque, which is standard equipment in Formula 1 racing due to its weight and safety advantages. This carbon composite monocoque would form the center of the concept built on the drive train from an AUDI TT. The design elements were minimal, functional and floated, very much like the motorbikes of KTM.
Each component fulfills a function, the technology remains transparent, and the pure form of driving pleasure is enhanced by adapting many of the design and engineering techniques used in the KTM motorcycle family. Pleasure is also enhanced by the emphasis on lightweight created by the carbon composites and its benefits to performance ratio. Soon after X-Bow, the entire automotive sector evidenced a design for lightweight. This will become important for designing desire and for the future of the automobile.
Designing the Desire for Incorporating Sustainability into the Design Process
The first bridge built entirely from iron is located in Ironbridge in Shropshire. One can clearly see that the fabrication technique and method of construction was based on wood. Woodworking joints were used to connect the material, something which we smile at now, yet, back then, they knew no other way. This speaks to the limitations of process until a new one is discovered. Once that improved process is realized the old one falls by the wayside.
Alternative energy sources have been having an enormous effect on governments and businesses alike. Various initiatives on fuel cell development and engine development in and around the car have driven many companies to develop new and innovative technologies for the car. The car itself, however, has remained pretty much the same.
The fabrication methods, lean processes, factories and staff grew up in a time when faster, further, bigger, and more comfortable packaged in a total targeted solution branded for the target market was the only thing to do. Though, sometimes companies might include a bit of safety and a splash of latest technology to get you where you wanted to go and in the style you aspired to.
Car companies typically use techniques developed over many years to better produce vehicles out of folded metal parts. Things have changed; people are starting to wake up to the realization that getting a few famous people to sit in your car is not enough to change the attitudes and especially the buying and using habits of people. They look for integrity in the product they buy and the brand that they associate with.
Carbon fiber has been a big success in the automotive aftermarket for years now for many reasons. One is that reduced weight makes a car faster. Along with speed, a lighter-weight car also handles better, is more nimble through corners and stops sooner. Lightweight design therefore paves the way for greater driving pleasure, agility and safety.
Above all, lightweight cars also affect fuel consumption and emissions, which is why Audi is spending so much time and money on lightweight construction. “One of our most enduring aims for the future is to reverse the weight spiral,”1 says Michael Dick, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG responsible for Technical Development. “Lightweight design is the foundation of our entire approach to improving efficiency.”
“Lightweight design is the foundation of our entire approach to improving efficiency.”
BMW global sales head Ian Robertson thinks similarly: “We will be the first manufacturer to take carbon fiber to effectively high volume.”2 And Friedrich Eichiner, Member of the Board of Management, Finance, BMW AG said: “We consider carbon fiber a cutting-edge material. Our joint efforts will make sustainable mobility possible in urban environments. Acting sustainably is part of our corporate strategy.”3
Both Audi and BMW know that lightweight can be a great business driver because simply moving to alternative energy like battery power doesn’t totally solve the problem; they also need to look at how energy consumption can be reduced. Lightweight can do just that. However – and this is the biggest challenge – they have to change mind-sets along with the development of these new technologies. Rationally, everybody understands the importance of improving the car’s energy consumption, but it’s the desire for driving such a car that has to be created.
Designing Desire for the Future
By designing the X-Bow, Kiska created driving experience by introducing “floating elements.” The final result delivered lightness and simplicity, which is perfectly consistent with the car’s concept. Those who take the wheel of that car are unwilling to leave the vehicle. Only by capturing the hearts and minds of their customers can hybrid and environmentally friendly cars become desirable to more than just a small percentage of consumers.
In the case of the X-Bow, “Kiska made it clear that design is helping businesses that are environmentally and socially responsible, create a desire for not only their products but their practices as well”, explains Sebastien Stassin, Partner and Design Director for the X-Bow. The brilliant ‘one off’ solution, the dazzling inspiration that turns a simple product into an iconic ‘must-have,’ is a rarity. It’s often a long way from being a product that is only attractive for a small percentage of clients to becoming a mass product.
Where you innovate, how you innovate and what you innovate are design problems. When you bring Integrated Design Development into that strategic discussion, you bring in a powerful tool with the purpose to grow. Strategic design as a component of business strategy will become a powerful way to add value in the near future. Design has evolved from a functional and technical driver to a decision driver and finally to a business asset.
By connecting the business strategy to the design strategy and the design strategy to the business, a company can grow faster and make better decisions for the changing conditions of human communities and our world. Design drives desire, desire drives innovation, innovation powers brands, brands build loyalty and loyalty sustains profit. The challenge that businesses face in the 21st century is to create an economy that is creative as well as productive.
Design is only half the solution towards achieving wellbeing. The rest needs to come from within individuals.
New innovations in technology have the ability to shape customers’ desires.
STRATEGIES IN ACTION:
Harness a desire for innovation in design and development
Understand the desire of the consumer
Consider alternative, sustainable solutions
Balance the desires of the designer and consumers, as well as the brand’s mission
Recognize the impact of your design on consumer behaviors and opinions
About the Author:
KISKA is a creative consultancy that works closely with its clients to create designs that reinforce brands and wrap solutions in clear messages, product and communications that display their unique value and quality in a moment. We combine different skills, cultures and passion and with a process we call “Integrated Design Development” we clearly understand how design could influence perception, drive success, and help build a brand…ultimately the only sustainable differentiation factor.
Designers Envision Lightweight Cars Created With Nature’s Help And Powered By Air.
1. Audi A5 Prototype with Aluminum and Carbon Fiber Construction – Sheds 100kg. All World Cars (2009). Retrieved from http://allworldcars.com/wordpress/?p=14770
2. Loveday, Eric (2010). BMW has high-volume plans for carbon fiber that go beyond Megacity. Autoblog Green.
Retrieved from http://green.autoblog.com/2010/04/28/bmw-has-big-plans-for-carbon-fiber-that-go-beyond-megacity-high/
3. (2010). SGL Group and BMW Group: New Carbon Fiber Plant to be Built in Moses Lake, WA. SGL Carbon Group.
Retrieved from http://www.sglgroup.com/cms/international/press-loungenews/2010/04/04062010_p.html?__locale=en