Archive for 2011

Design For One
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I was drawn recently to a story on Walter Reed Military Hospital describing the engineers and doctors working on prosthetics for returning amputees from Afghanistan. The story focused on the advances in field medicine leading to greater survival rates. One uncomfortable but common question the article addressed was, “How do you decide if an injury is too horrible to keep a victim alive?” The response was, “It’s not my place to judge quality of life. We save everyone.” The result is a population of amputees many of whom have a continued zest for life and a push for engineers to make them specialized tools to perform the activities they love (tennis, cooking, etc.).

There is something powerful in designing for an individual. First, the needs aren’t generalized and the features aren’t optimized (read: averaged) for a population of users. Second, cost and manufacturing constraints don’t exist – if multiple iterations are needed, all are “prototypes” never to be mass produced. Third, judgment is quick and clear – you can see the emotional response and you can see the results in use. All of these elements create in a satisfying process of meeting a need and measuring the success in a person’s gratitude or enjoyment.

Some of our most successful projects are inspired by the “design for one” (or a few). I am reminded of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn asking contestants, “who is your customer?” The answer is often, “a busy executive who moves from work to an art opening.” Way too vague, right? “Francine is my customer” is a much better answer. Sadra Medical has designed a revolutionary catheter based heart valve replacement device. Their first patient was identified and used as a beacon during the clinical trial development push and continues to be a representation of the “people they hope to help” after a successful trial. Designers and engineers can picture what she needs. She needs a quick recovery to avoid hospital induced sickness. She needs a flexible, small catheter to traverse her vasculature. She needs to survive – she has a very clear success rate: it’s either 100% or 0%.

On the other hand, projects have suffered for lack of the “one.” Often ideas looking for users wander aimlessly based on where competition or opinion leads.

Can we risk letting one person stand in for a population when designing a product used by many? Probably not. Most products are intended to be used in varied environments by users separated in age, gender, education, size, dexterity, etc. What “design for one” provides, though, is a North Star, a tough critic, a Francine that we can’t disappoint. If we satisfy Francine, we’ve done our job well.

Design Concepts at LifeScience Alley Conference & Expo 2011
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Design Concepts is a proud sponsor of the the LifeScience Alley Conference & Expo 2011. The The 10th Annual Conference, which brings together leaders in the medical device community, will be held Wednesday, December 7th, at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis, MN. Registration begins at 7:00 am.

This year, we’re pleased to have an booth in the exhibit hall and invite you to stop by and learn more about who we are, what we do and how we help companies achieve business success through product and service design and strategy. Rainer Schnabel, director of product development, and Rick Stein, strategic account manager, will be on hand at the company’s exhibit, booth 301, on the exhibition floor. We’re looking forward to seeing many of our longtime colleagues and clients from the medical device community and meeting new ones, as well.

See you at the LifeScience Alley Conference & Expo!

Franchino Shares Insights on Innovation at UW-Madison Executive Education
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Dave Franchino, president and principal of Design Concepts, will share his insights on adding customer value through innovation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Business School Executive Education course Creating a Culture of Innovation. Franchino joins Brad Rogers and Linda Gorschels in presenting the 3-day class held November 29 – December 1, 2011. Franchino will lead the second day of the course, “Innovate Customer Value,” and explore innovative product sensing as well as product and service development.

The course, geared toward product developers, market researchers and strategiests, is an opportunity to gain insights into positioning an organization for change, exploring ways to apply innovation strategies to product development and as a means to increase customer value.

Creating a Culture of Innovation
Adapt to changing realities in order to thrive

Day 1: Awaken Your Personal Creative and Leadership Potential
Day 2: Innovate Customer Value
Day 3: Build and Sustain an Organizational Culture of Innovation

Learn more about the course by visiting the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Business School Executive Education Web site

Bullis on Prototyping and New Product Development
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Dan Bullis, Design Concepts’ principal and director of prototype development was an invited speaker at the Univeristy of Wisconsin – Madison, Wisconsin School of Business Executive Education course exploring new product development. The two-day course held 11/15 – 11/17 at the UW-Madison Fluno Center was developed and led by Linda Gorchels and attended by 28 industry leaders responsible for the development of new products.

Bullis spoke on the value prototypes can bring to product development efforts all throughout the interative design process. In particular, Dan shared his perspective, developed over a 30-year career in product design, on the value of proof-of-principle models, form studies and user experience models as key tools in exploring and developing a concept.

Those enrolled in the course shared their own professional expriences giving new concepts shape through the use of prototyping.

For more information on the course, visit the Wisconsin School of Business Executive Education Web site.

Think I’m Not Paying Attention? Think Again.
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Has your employer ever sent you to a conference and you were:

  1. Not really sure what you were there to learn or do.
  2. Sick at the thought of awkwardly talking to strangers during “networking time.”
  3. Guilt-ridden about the recap you were supposed to write of the event—but didn’t.
  4. All of the above, and more.

Yes, we’ve all been there. Conferences can be incredibly stimulating, but they can also be tough on the brain, the ego and, if the chairs are hard, the backside.

I had an experience last week that will revolutionize the way I participate in conferences.

It seems counter-intuitive that a tool for connecting virtually can exponentially enhance the experience of connecting in person, but social media can. And it did.

At the Fast Company Innovation Uncensored Conference in San Francisco, I experienced the power of social media firsthand. Let me tell you what I saw.

By my estimation, over half of the audience was using Twitter during the conference to comment on the speaker’s presentation in real time.  The conference organizers (who set up the hashtag #UI11) and the speakers and moderators waiting in the wings were Tweeting too.  This did two big things for those of us in attendance.

One, it allowed all of us to participate in a singular, robust “side conversation” if we so chose. The sessions became interactive and we all benefitted from the insights and opinions of the thought-leaders in the audience as well as those on stage.  Those who weren’t participating in social media were simply on the receiving end of what was presented.

Was it distracting? Not for me. In fact, I’d say it made me pay better attention as I was seeking out key insights to Tweet.

Two, social media actually facilitated face-to-face networking. After following the conversation all day, it was much easier to approach people during the networking time and pick up where the conversation left off, so to speak. Also, because most everyone has a headshot associated with his or her twitter handle, I could recognize by sight, and comfortably approach, people I’d never actually met.  Social awkwardness practically eliminated.

Of secondary importance, social media allowed attendees to give feedback to the conference organizers in real time. “Can you move the podium? Those of us on the right can’t see” was the most productive tweet. “My ass is mad”—about the hard wooden chairs—gets the humor award.

Lastly, post-conference, a review of the Twitter stream provides a great crowd-sourced recap of the event.  All the key takeaways are right there!

If you think Twitter is about broadcasting to the world what kind of sandwich you made for lunch, let me share with you a few actual tweets from the event.  You’ll see they are thoughtful and each is crafted as a conversation starter, which is what social media is all about.

There were three hundred attendees at this conference. If each of us Tweeting has, say, 125 followers, that means that content from this conference reached 18,750 people who weren’t physically there. Not only were the ideas for the event disseminated, Tweets invite engagement, which means the conversation became even that much longer and richer.

This is significant. And I bet not a one of those 18,750 people got the sore bum I did.

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