Purpose of a Product Design

Is product design creative designer’s fancy? In popular perception, the term designer conjures up images of a maverick yet highly creative artist who in his of imagination comes up with a hitherto not seen product. What is design without creativity in it? Indeed, designs are ‘creative’ in nature and they should be so. However, in an organized context, the design should serve the organizational objectives while being creative. Since an organization has a purpose, the product design should help to serve that larger purpose.

Design starts with conceptualization which has to have a basis. Providing value to the customer, the return on investment to the company and the competitiveness of the company should form the basis of the product design effort. What separates a product designer from a freelance artist is the former’s orientation towards these organizational objectives.

A product’s design has tremendous impact on what materials and components would be used, which suppliers will be included, what machine or what type of processes will used to manufacture it, where it will be stored, how it must be transported. Since a customer does not necessarily imply an already tied up customer, but also a potential one, what and how the general target customer community will be informed depends upon what the design of the product is. For instance, a simple product like toothpaste which is also designed to act as a mouth freshener needs to be placed, advertised, promoted and priced differently. Thus, marketing is also impacted by product design. A product design reflects a company’s overall strategy.

Design as a Strategic Activity:

A company’s design of its products indicates who its customers may be. It indicates the company’s approach to people and business in general. A design includes the physical product and the plan of all the associated services that should go with it. On the face of it, it may appear a drawing or a prototype of just a physical product with the specified dimensions of characteristics. But, it is much more than that. In its physical dimensions or other properties are embedded the various unsaid messages about who would use it, how would it be used, where would it be used and when. It is the ‘seed’ – the conceptualization and culmination of all thinking as to what the customer would be offered. It has all the genetic material for the growth performance and viability of the organization in the face of competition in the present and the future. A design of a physical product or that of a service product represents the total approach to doing business.

As mentioned earlier, while the customer’s needs and preference may be of help to define an organization’s strategy and the latter would help in designing a product, the product design in its turn would influence productive/operations strategies and marketing strategies. A particular design would necessitate a particular type or a mix of these functional strategies, if the organization has to remain competitive.

Take the case of a watch manufacturing company starts making watches designed as jewelry. This may be the result of its effort to cater to a unique customer need – its own particular organizational strategy to position itself differently amongst the multitude of other watch-makers. This is the case of a company driving a product design to fulfill its objectives. However, even if the company entered into this specialized design without a preconceived plan, it would have to take special measures in its production process, distribution network, marketing channels and associated service operations consistent with the jewelry product. The very fact that company has entered a jewelry business would demand different production, procurement quality and logistics strategies. It would therefore be the case of a design driving the company.

Therefore, either the design could be used consciously as an active representation of an organization’s strategic framework or it would in the absence of a conscious effort – itself drive the organization’s strategies. Either way by design or by default product design has strategic implication and impact.

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