What does it mean to be good at designing? Usually, it has been expressed as beautifully expressing the appearance of things, designing user-centered UI. However, outstanding design scholars around the world say that the idea of designing user-centered designs is outdated. If you look at the history of design so far, rather, the design created by the intuition of corporate officials has led to innovation. This was the case with Apple, and so was the case with Dyson, the Apple of the United Kingdom. The more products that were created without any research on consumer needs, the more well-received, the more vital they were.
Being outside of consumer-centered thinking doesn’t mean that you should ignore the needs of the market completely. However, in terms of the methodology of identifying needs, it is to escape the old-fashioned thinking. The way that design leaders and well-known design masters suggest is to use Interpreters. Interpreters, which mean groups of artists, marketers, journalists, scholars, etc. who explore the social meaning of things, can be more of an aesthetic that can give consumers a higher and more intrinsic insight than simply statistical needs.
The design philosophy of Alessi, a kitchenware design company established by Giovanni Alessi in 1921, has continued for generations, is “a factory that makes dreams.” The company focuses on the idea of focusing on function rather than design, but it is loved by consumers with its distinctive functional design. Through collaboration with well-known architects and industrial designers, it has been working on the development process of each product over the years to create an aesthetic product that creates a desire for collection as if we were collecting artworks one by one. Alessi sees the consumer as an audience for the artwork, which is a natural result. The teapot, which was released in 1985 and is steadily gaining popularity, was also developed in the early 1970s. Designed by an architect who has never designed consumer goods, Alessi kettle is a case of success by utilizing the aforementioned interpreters in earnest.
Dyson, a home appliance company known as Britain’s Apple, also has a reputation for design, but it shows a philosophy that values function rather than focusing on design. They define themselves as technology companies, not design companies. Founder James Dyson notes that “design follows function,” conveying that the effort to create a functionally good product resulted in the most unique concept. After 15 years of research and trial and error, Dyson finally launched a dust bag-free vacuum cleaner in 1993. Cyclone Technology, which was developed after more than 5,000 tests, eventually implemented a technology that allows dust in the vacuum cleaner to be inhaled through a transparent dust container without the need for dust bags. By 2001, the Dyson vacuum cleaner eats up 47 percent of the vacuum cleaner market. Dyson’s tenacity never stopped. In 2007, after paying attention to safety accidents and inconveniences caused by the fan’s wings, Dyson succeeded in developing a fan without wings after three years of research.
According to Dyson officials, these series of groundbreaking design products are not really focused on design. Rather than focusing on design, they only melted the design in the entire process of product development. They found out where people felt uncomfortable and focused on the process of solving this problem. It’s the epitome of ‘Design Thinking’ that defines problems and designs them to solve them, bringing about innovation.
In fact, if you look at the etymology of design, it comes from the Latin word “designare,” which means “to give meaning to things.” “Design is a tool of problem solving, the process of devising the principles of behavior that companies prefer or the public want to change current conditions for the company,” according to world-renowned scholar Herbert Simon, illustrating the etymology of design.
This is not just a broad view of the meaning of design, but an understanding of the essential meaning of design. According to Professor Roberto Berganti, who majored in innovative management, design is a “transition of meaning.” Nintendo’s Wii game console, which was released in 2006 and turned into a training tool, and Fiat’s urban van, which was famous for its small car design, were all about changing the meaning of the product. That’s also unconventional. Apple’s iPhone, the epitome of design innovation, is even more so, and doesn’t need an explanation.
The actions that we often judge to be innovative, such as user-centered or differentiated from other companies, are already pursued by so many companies that it is no longer possible to give them innovative value. Wouldn’t a company that succeeds in transforming the meaning be able to lead the market today?