Before unleashing ones creativity, it’s worth taking a pause to understand the people who will be buying and using the actual product. Knowing what motivates their purchase and what they value in a product are key points to understand for the designer. But we also need to remember that this information is only in the ‘now’. We also need to forecast into the future because people and the world around us may change – or stay the same. Here are some useful tools to consider in the design of new products and before brainstorming new ideas:
Trend scanning – understanding social, economic, technological, fashion, geo-political, and other macro level trends and how they will change the market and people within it. For a more ‘street’ level look if it’s been awhile… you can hire so called ‘Cool Hunters’ or style gurus who have their pulse on the latest trends and styles.
Video Ethnography – Video studies of how customers interact with their products during everyday life in their everyday environment.
Give them a Camera and Scrapbook – Giving customers a camera so they can photograph the key things they find valuable, motivating, exciting, necessary, inconvenient, innovative, etc. This can also be a collage of objects or images from the customers life.
Immersion in the Customer Environment – Spending time living how the customer lives and using products as the customer would. For example, I heard that when Toyota was launching Lexus, they sent a team of designers to southern California to live the country club lifestyle.
Future Scenario Alternatives and Immersion – Developing several alternative views of the world based on trend forecast and expected events. For example, we may find ourselves in a world with a severe energy shortage where everything is given in order to secure energy at the expense of the environment, peace, etc. The brainstorming team is then immersed in the future and imagines what they will need and want in terms of products.