Week 7 – Design Driven Innovation

“People do not buy products but meanings.” – Verganti, Design Driven Innovation (2009)

The key to success for any sort of design is not about making things look better, but to change its meanings. Verganti in the reading brought up the Metamorfosi lamp – while its “competition concentrates on style”, this map radically changed its meaning by overturning the very notion of being a lamp, by emitting an ambient light that would later human psychology rather than  just simply lighting up a room. The “light” in this context extends beyond its traditional meaning, to what it could do to you. In a world where almost everything is considered and design, in order to excel above the rest we will have to look beyond features, functions and performance, and “understand the real meanings users give to things”.

The Nintendo Wii and the Apple iPhone are two common (yet important) examples given to “Design-driven innovation”, instead of improving on existing ideas of what a console and a phone (respectively) is, they overhauled the whole meaning, it is a dangerous move, but one that was well worth the risk, overtaking the markets and effectively allowing them to set competition rules for their markets.

Tim Kastelle succinctly sums up this idea  through his example of the Nespresso machine:

“When we talk about design we often think, well, let’s make something that looks cool… but its not really like that, design-driven innovation is about coming up with new solution to problems.”

Rather than improving and enhancing features of their machines, Nespresso looked at problems that people were having and addressed them instead. This human-centered approach addresses the issues that arise in the user experience rather than technological issues in the machine itself. Approaching the design of objects (and to an extend, the future) basing around humans is the key to success.

It is to this ideal that we should design towards, by focusing on the human perspective rather than the technological perspective, we innovate the meaning of objects by relating them on a basic level with their users. A successful design does not only look, or work great, but it should take into account how we, as users, interact with them. We are problem solvers, and it is not the problem of “how can this look better” or “how can this run faster”, but the question of “how would people use this?”. Often these solutions are things people would not think of, but once proposed to them, they end up being what we are waiting for.

I have started thinking up questions to ask my interviewee for assignment two, and this is the direction I would go towards – rather than asking them what they think the future would be, it would be more prudent to ask what they would like the future to be. The problems and issues they have will be projected towards the answer, giving me a more in-depth look into human-oriented scenario building rather than a simple, one-dimensional vision of the future.


Design-Driven Innovation – Nespresso 2010, <http://vimeo.com/9745682>

Verganti, R. 2009, ‘Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean’, .


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