Ami Verhalen, vice president of design and principal at Design Concepts, delivered a presentation to multinational scientists at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on June 3 about human-centered design and why design matters.
Addressing 175 guests from 30 counties, Verhalen explained that although there was a time when products were designed mainly for function, we have come to expect attractive designs that deliver excellent experiences.
“People want sophisticated, human-centered design. They desire it. They appreciate it. It’s already in their lives, and they expect it,” Verhalen said. “It simplifies complexity. It creates solutions that are beautiful when they don’t need to be. It tells a story to customers, colleagues, friends and families. It creates an experience that is important because it adds value and meaning to our lives and our work.”
She said products that people used to like have been redesigned to artfully balance form, function and experience, prompting impassioned loyalty from users. Verhalen noted that everyday products are now statement pieces.
“Human-centered design isn’t just about creating something to get a job done. It’s about factoring in the human to create great solutions that are pleasurable, engaging and meaningful,” Verhalen said.
Design Concepts utilized cutting-edge software to significantly cut design and manufacturing costs for an innovative stadium seat.
New topology-optimization software — in the form of an add-in to SolidWorks — helped the firm cut design time by about 60 percent and design costs by more than 50 percent. The team also used the software to eliminate the need for a metal hinge in the seat, which previously constituted 60 percent of the total manufacturing cost.
Design Concepts’ work with topology-optimization software was featured in a recent Cadalyst article.
Topology optimization means using engineering and mathematical principals to optimize the shape and geometry of an object to meet specific performance targets.
“The software flips the design process on its head. You start with loads and find where the material needs to be,” explained Dave Franchino, president and principal at Design Concepts.
The software also helps engineers realize a unique, innovative design for clients, because designers can move away from the old strategy of benchmarking known designs and approach the project from a different angle.
Franchino’s close ties to the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering led to Design Concepts’ work with the topology-optimization software, named PareTOWorks. Krishnan Suresh, an associate professor in the College of Engineering at UW-Madison, is developing PareTOWorks to help mechanical engineers apply topology optimization to product design.
Chris Strahm, the lead mechanical engineer on the stadium seat project, said PareTOWorks gives Design Concepts another tool for when teams start an engineering-heavy project.
“The stadium seat project was a good fit for what the software could do, which is basically optimize the material for a structural need,” Strahm said. “We wanted to cut materials costs by minimizing as much plastic as possible while still maintaining sufficient structure to meet functional requirements.”
Strahm said PareTOWorks can also make the design process faster and more efficient. He said that by using PareTOWorks, the team was able to come up with the first iteration of a working model within minutes, and it required only minor modification to establish the first proof of principle model. He estimated that, for a project like this, developing a working model the traditional way would’ve taken about a week.
To learn more about Design Concepts’ utilization of topology-optimization software, read this Cadalyst article.
Dave Franchino, president and principal of Design Concepts, delivered a keynote speech to about 400 business leaders at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s BizExpo on Tuesday, stressing to his audience that innovation is an essential ingredient for business success.
Speaking at the Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall, Franchino said some businesses fall into the trap of thinking that they don’t need to focus much on innovation in their industry. He said innovation isn’t something businesses today can afford to ignore.
“And I would both challenge and warn you that if you don’t think about innovation, your competitors will. They will find a way to out-innovate you and eventually destroy your business,” Franchino said.
Design Concepts has worked with a wide range of business clients across various industries, and Franchino said that has allowed the firm to really see what works and doesn’t work in innovation and develop a unique perspective on innovating for business success.
“We’re a firm that does nothing but try to innovate on behalf of our clients. It’s the sole purpose of why we exist,” Franchino said.
He said sometimes when people think about innovation, they immediately think of things like biotechnology or the Internet, but he pointed out that innovation isn’t just about technology solutions. Franchino said sometimes innovation lies in exploring customer needs.
“Sometimes in our firms and businesses, innovation is all about finding a new need — something that our customers might not have been aware they have until we put a solution in front of them,” Franchino said.
Franchino gave the audience four simple things they could do in their companies to drive innovation: hear, see, think and talk.
He said the front end of innovation in most situations comes from taking the time to listen to your customers and hear what they’re looking for.
Beyond hearing the customer, he said companies should watch and witness what their customers actually do.
“Because often what people say they do and what they really do can be dramatically different,” he said. “It’s taking the time to immerse yourselves in the lives of your customers, to spend time with them, to watch and figure out what their pain points are. Not just understanding how they use your services and your products, but how they fit into the fabric of their lives can be a really important driver of innovation.”
Beyond that, he recommended creating a corporate culture internally that values thinking and taking the time to think creatively about your business and encouraging innovative new ideas.
Finally, Franchino said companies should do that thinking within the context of a business culture that is willing to talk about innovation and take the time to talk about doing things differently.
“If you can hear, see, think and talk about innovation, innovation will happen in your firms,” he said.
On Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 45 business executives from the Pan-African University Lagos Business School, Lagos, Nigeria will visit Wisconsin to expand their academic and professional knowledge, network and explore business opportunities. The group includes current and future business leaders from global consumer brands as well as the petroleum, financial services and medical device industries.
At Design Concepts the group will learn about practices and processes to envision and develop new and innovative products and services. This is the Lagos Business School’s second visit to Design Concepts.
The group will also visit other leading Wisconsin businesses including ETC, EPIC, Manpower, the Black Chamber of Commerce and Harley Davidson. The cross-border entrepreneurship event is sponsored by the International Business Resource Center of the University of Wisconsin – Platteville.
In a continued partnership with the University of Wisconsin – School of Business Executive Education, Dave Franchino, president and principal of Design Concepts, taught a one-day workshop on Design Thinking and Innovation. The seminar was held on March 13th at Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, WI as part of Johnson Controls’ building efficiencies leadership development program.
The session focused on the framework and process of innovation and how to make the most of them to ensure unique product designs that are successful in the marketplace. Peppered with real-world examples of inspired innovation, the lecture detailed the various stages of the product development process. From user research to idea generation to concept evaluation – the engaging seminar had participants literally working through each step during an interactive exercise.