Live blog: PD+I conference, London – Day 1

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We’re here bright and early, with a group of exciting industrial designers poised ready to talk.

It’s the fourth year of this conference and it’s really grasped some of the world’s big name designers (partly because it’s £300 to attend, partly because it’s in the Capital – always an attractive proposition), with Robert Brunner, Ammunition Design and Beats By Dre; Mark Delaney, Nokia, and Gavin Procter, Philips Consumer Lifestyle forming the basis of this morning’s excitement.

Check in with us though the day to stay up to date speaker by speaker (the full list is here):
Robert Brunner, Founder Ammunition Design, chief designer Beats By Dre

– It’s a new golden age of design, as a company you don’t own you’re own brand – brands are not logos and products, they’re ‘a gut feeling’.
– You can only influence this…
– Harley Davidson – an example of what he means. ‘How many of you have a tattoo of Apple?’. There’s a lot of people with HD tattoos.
– Risk – ‘ultimately not taking risks is the biggest risk you can take today’. The need is to make people understand the relationship between risk and innovation.
– Objects are simpler than a brand, and not nearly as powerful. An iPhone is much more than and object, there’s the entire ‘experience’ around it and in using it.
– Yesterday the coders were the heroes, today it’s designers
– Still sketching! Designing the Square Stand, a new payment station using an iPad and the little payment gadget
– Polaroid – design work on an action camera (a go pro). Some lovely exploded renders! ‘something about this little cute cube that captures peoples imaginations about Polaroid’
– ‘People aren’t hearing my music’ – Dr Dre quotes!!!! A man that is A) a perfectionist, and B) Hates shitty white earbuds
– ‘I never thought it would end up like this’ – Brenner on Beats By Dre
– It’s a club sound rather than an audiophile sound
– rethinking the headset – it had to be iconic and recognisable. Wearable tech – what would make it more acceptable to wear it?
– ‘We engineered this seamless form ending in this teardrop shape’
– We’re nearly full circle here, getting back to how the brand is as much about experience and ‘the tribe you want to belong to’
– Beats video – cue a shit ton of pop-based dubstep… I’m getting old…
– ‘Truly marketing colour’ – Beats gives you the chance to ‘own your colour’, and gives consumer brands the same variables as fashion
– ‘I’m pretty sure this lady is going to regret this’ – some young lady has had a pair of Beats headphones tattooed on her arm… Oh dear…
– Finishes with designers are the heroes again. The room looks smug.

With our iPad devices we’ve all been given there’s some interesting ‘gameshow’ style polling going on in the break, makes a change from reluctantly putting your hands up…

The next panel is in place to speak about getting stuff to happen in a corporation, and they are:
Mark Delaney, head of design forward, Nokia (now Microsoft)
Gavin Procter, director of design innovation, Phillips Consumer Lifestyle
Dee Cooper, creative director Decide Ltd (former Virgin Atlantic)


Mark’s up first
– Nokia used to have a massive market share, had four design sectors and 12 different design languages within its own company
– iPhone came along. So we did what any company would do, we made a lot of PowerPoint documents to convince ourselves we didn’t need to change
– if you can make a graph about it you can reassure yourself… You can hide the true problem
– when trying to convince a big company you have to embrace this type of data
– ‘Nokia have since been doing the best design it’s ever done’
– ‘Design became the people that made things easier and could connect the dots’
– What you shouldn’t change is your company culture to help shape the facts that are unique to you to shape it into something meaningful
– ‘Design is the guardian of a company’s culture’
– Strategy changes year by year, but people and customers are loyal to cultures
– One thing is certain – there are going to be new competitors.
– ‘Change is coming, as designers you’re well placed to interpret that change and help leaders define approaches and strategies to make that work for you’

Next up Gavin:
– Things are changing – the nature of stuff. Algorithms are becoming as important a part of the design as the object
– No longer just products, but the product of services
– People can connect 24/7 and brands need to be able to adjust to this
– constant need for reinvention – Phillips is 120+ years old! but still needs to keep moving
– Conveying knowledge around a company – seemingly, go wild for infographics…
– The design capability is changing, and the new tech is at the heart of this, including experience design
– Design thinking is beginning to catch on within Phillips, helping marketing and sales with their process
– Philips taking on kids from outside to hack devices and take it all apart – they need to embrace change – if ‘hackathons’ are going to be a big part of future design then they are going to have to get into bed with it

Now Dee:
– Developing brand values – even in Virgin Atlantic people had to look after it, even internally – “Everyday Pioneers” – sounds similar to something fromThe Thick Of It…
– We shouldn’t have worked, only 37 aircraft, compared to massive fleet liners. Used great design to help customers chooses them
– An industrial designer by trade, Dee expected to design seats and meal trays, but ended up designing first class lounges and uniforms – design was used everywhere.
– Tried to find smaller companies to make great designs – using Priestmangoode and Barber Osgerby before they became massive
– Industrial design key projects at Virgin Atlantic included the J2000 seat, a radical design, but not loved. British Airways launched a flatbed, and Virgin needed to up its design game as BA had better products.
– Two blokes sat in a warehouse doing secret R&D on seat models
– Creating an amazing project, then September 11th happened and the industry crashed. They kept on developing to have something to come out of the other side with
– Crashtests like nobody else had ever done – lots of FEA – ‘radical innovations’ to engineer it all into the space needed to achieve money-making comfort.
– ’90 per cent of your colleagues don’t want change’, to upset the status quo, or cause new problems, so design was very much at the bottom of the ladder
– In 2004, from an industry point of view Virgin were only behind Apple in terms of design industry praise, but had little sway internally
– “I don’t think it matters where design sits… Most important is just getting on with designing.”
– The Virgin Atlantic advert, they now include an industrial designer in it

Now the discussion, which will be a ball ache to try and cover, but here goes… Abbreviated statements ahoy!

– Finding new ways to construct a product was defining the way a product looked, which was the shift from designers just swanning around with the styling, but using a deep level understanding of processes to create products. – Mark Delaney
– Design is a function on an equal level playing field to all other voices in a company – Gavin Procter
– My job is to create space, and the process for the other designers to create the best products – Mark
– We have ‘specialist’ positions in the company for people that (in terms of promotion) don’t want to go to board meetings, but to simply concentrate on design and crafting products. – Mark

What do you want before lunch?
You want to learn about some new materials and processes for product design?
Well we’re about ready to launch into three more talks from:

Joeske Schellen, head of colour and material technology design at Nokia
Marcel Dartee, global marketing director for sustainable and bio materials at PolyOne
Peter Booth, founder of Tin Horse

– How Nokia/Microsoft are getting involved with the materials earlier in the product design life cycle
– a team of 45 people in the materials lab, a comparatively big group
– Materials thrown to the front of design process as ideas we’re put back by materials problems – a metal band around a smartphone causes interference with the antenna etc.
– N9 smartphone was the first step in a materials approach and started with plastics – fantastic for colours, antennas, and as a concept for making plastics ‘premium’ again
– Started to look into post processing, finishings and other elements of the plastics.
– a lot of steps in the process of bringing theses plastics to the forefront of the designs – including working with suppliers and learning about the manufacturing
– Also, how do you display this to the consumer so they see the skill and design value in this?
– Set up a collaborative process, working at feasibility, testing and suppliers to bring new materials into their design flow.
– Design process had to work from two to three years out in order to get this material system in place. Needed agile development
– Partnering was key to this, finding specialist suppliers to aid the design – if R&D had gone off and found some new material they wanted to use
– “Fastest way of working is working with someone that already knows how to do it”

Now it’s Marcel’s turn up front:
– ‘We are Polymer People’ – you certainly are Marcel
– There are an enormous amount of variables to what the plastic industry can do
– ‘Talk to the material people earlier on in the process – we’re seeing a lot of people on the design side at are wanting to do this’
– They offer a colour palette service – InVisio – gives suggestions via your industry, or even your competitors… Can also help come up with a different shade to what is already on market. Design thinking in the materials perspective.
– Developed a software system (cloud based) to generate colour options and a BOM, and can start making a quantity for this and start having it shipped to your factory in China (they have worldwide labs).
– Reducing time it takes to get the colour you want from weeks to hours
– Thermoplastics – a lot of properties in it that can be tailored to the purpose

Now it’s a sprightly Peter:
– Work with fast moving packaging consumer goods, hard to manage materials in that world
– Time they have has halved
– Recent problems, despite better design:
– Cardboard bottles – emerged in ’94, but was less sustainable than plastics
– Plastic paint ‘tin’ – came in 2004, but looked less substantial than a can
– 2014 Persil liquid – doesn’t look like anything else – it ‘smashes the autopilot function’ of the consumer
– Prototyping approach is incredibly robust and adaptable – can take it to consumers before masses of wasted development
– Box of tissues – you want them near you, but you don’t want to see them – so prototyping a slimline box was important, but by making a ‘compressible’ pack they could make an appealing product that could be hidden away from view
– Problem with materials is that we don’t have time to develop a new material, so we have to use what’s available – so we cheat. We often don’t draw things in our studio, we just go ahead and make them. Taking other materials early on and spraying them to look like what they want, sorting out the ‘final’ design fast, then solving the material problem after this stage.

Lunchtime is over and the conference room is filling back up to hear from a variety of different industry speakers (a few bemoaning the lack of available caffeine to dodge the inevitable post buffet slump), including Richard Seymour and Sir John Hegarty, so we’d best get back to it.

Steve Masterson, COO Kiska

We’ve covered Kiska before, through its work with KTM automotive, although it does a mass of work with some huge brands
– To be different is relatively easy, using a new technology, but it becomes less of a differentiator over time. Design, however, becomes a differentiator more over time.
– So what is a brand? It is a promise. When you break a promise there are consequences.
– Which is the safest car brand in the world? It’s not Volvo, it’s now Audi, but the marketing value has lived on. But what is the modern interpretation of this for the new market? Steve suggests a partnership between Volvo and the new self-driving Google car as a modern idea for this.
– 1.8 seconds is the time it takes to decide on purchasing a product – even a costly product such as a car
– So there needs to be a targeted process – Step 1. What’s the promise, the value, what is the company the best at, and prove it. If you can do all this you can charge a premium AND become the market leader.
– He’s very enthusiastic this fella! Definitely past the need for coffee
– Step 2. Where do you want this to go? As the journey goes on the distances between the company groups move apart – sales want one thing, marketing another, design something inbetween
– Step 3. Pinning down the target group
– Step 4. Stakeholders and decision making, making sure the right people get what the direction is
– Step 5. ‘The company that comes and kicks you up the bum is usually not one of your rivals, but someone from another sector’
– We’re massively behind on the steps…
– Step 9 – You need to figure out the differentiator potential – aiming at where the market is now with a product is no good as it’s going to have moved by the time your product gets there
– Step 10 – Backcasting, going back through everything and effectively saying ‘but what if we’d done this’

Tom Evans, founder BleepBleeps
Bill Sermon, partner at Viadynamics
Ben Pirt, chief technology officer Product Health

Tom Evans:

– Time for making stuff happen outside of companies in startups, thankfully in hardware.
BleepBleeps, if you’re not aware, are some gadgets to help with raising your children.
– Launching via Kickstarter, it’s initial product Sammy Screamer is a motion detecting alarm that can attach to most things and not only scream if moved, but send a notification to your smartphone. Think biscuit jar lid, or fridge doors for monitoring secret eaters…
– It’s blasted through its funding request. ‘Amazing how crowd funding has democratised this process… One of the main reasons we’re seeing this hardware renaissance ‘
– Tom was a graphic designer, but has managed to get this far using a team of 20 skilled people working for minimal rates.
– Have a brand first, it really helps, ‘the rest will follow’
– Product story is lovely, from having the idea while taking a thermometer reading for his ill daughter and having to google the answer on his phone; to settling on the brand style and design language (a Pinterest board); to figuring out the product design, to sorting the analogue sound of the devices.
– Prototyping took place, helping to figure out what would be needed to manufacture it.
– Having jumped through the hoops required by Kickstarter it’s well underway, although ‘Hardware is hard!’

Ben and Bill have joined Tom on stage now. Expect more frantic typing…

– ‘The pace at which you can move an idea today is a critical shift’ – Bill
– ‘People need to understand the challenges between a hardware and service startup – there are many more problems that people need to be aware of with a hardware idea… It also makes a difference to the investment prospects’ – Bill
– ‘Crowdfunding lowers the barriers to access, and helps you engage users from a much earlier stage in the process… Getting your early adopters involved with being guinea pigs for the product… Being engaged’ – Ben
– ‘[Kickstarter is] the natural go to way of launching a product now’ – Tom
– Problem seems to be that a physical product costs a lot more than a service product business model
– It’s more a marketing launch pad than a sales distribution site
– Tom were you worried about someone copying your idea? ‘Not really, the big corporates move at glacial speed’!
– Couldn’t use the BleepBleep renders on Kickstarter – Ben suggests that this makes Kickstarter more reliable for investors in hardware, and thus better for developers
– ‘Don’t work on something in secret for two years then launch it to deafening silence. Get your ideas out there early!’ – Tom

Paul Flowers, senior VP of design, Grohe
– High-end ‘plumbing stuff – taps, shower heads and all sorts for fancy bathroom stuff
– Initially ‘The company was very Germanic. Design was never discussed’
– ‘We get to shape and deliver water… Bringing emotion to this rational product’
– Bringing design into the company – brand identity: ‘The ring’, 7 degree angled handles, lozenge shape, one or all three will appear in a Grohe product
– Take on packaging design – by flattening the shower head by 7 degrees it could fit into 50 per cent less packaging, so more can fit onto pallets, reducing overheads.
– Colour and texture can be innovative – especially in a world where chrome is king
– Design thinking – the kitchen is ‘We’, a shared space, while the bathroom is ‘Me’ a singular escape from the rest of the house.
– Technology has moved on at pace, but not in the bathroom. Has been investing in digital products in expectancy: it allows you to tailor your experience, and to improve your experience with less water
– Consumer configuration – easy with digital, hard with physical. The F-series, topping out at £20k, can add sounds, lighting, water effects to let you plan out your shower – to create a domestic spa
– ‘Nomadic’ bathroom furniture – conceptual – but as we’re all moving around, you could take your investment with you. All on the basis of Grohe launching its own ceramics range – all items have some very innovative points

Now it’s time to finish the day with some storytelling, probably not Jackanory-esque, with Richard Seymour, founder of SeymourPowell and Sir John Hegarty, of Bart Bogle Hegarty

Richard up first:
– As I predicted, it’s going to be hard to summarise this, so probably only a few choice quotes to follow. Wish me luck.

– ‘The importance of establishing a central idea is essential to a product’
– “This is the age of the MetaProduct. It’s appearance, performance, tactility and behaviour are its stories. If we love them, we’ll tell someone else. If we fucking hate them, we’ll tell someone else… We’re coming full circle to the primacy of the product.”

Now Sir John:

– ‘A brand is fundamentally important… But I always think branding has always been with us. Look at France, it even has a sign off line!’
– The most powerful brand? ‘The Catholic Church – World’s greatest logo… Genius!!’
– So much of what we’re selling nowadays is invisible. Establishing a brand as something people feel and experience is essential in the modern world.
– ‘A brand is not made just by the people buying it, but those that know about it. That’s fame, and that’s what makes it important… That’s what you’re putting into your design.’

That’s your lot for today – a brilliant ride through a lot of aspects of design – from functionality to emotion; from jump-starting an existing company through design to crowd funding a new one.

We’ll be back tomorrow – @swearstoomuch again typing furiously on an iPad and severely damaging his eyesight – tune in from 9am

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