Some Design Advice from IBM’s VP

August 23, 2011

We recently read an article on Fast Company that speaks to designers everywhere. In the article, Lee Green, vice president of IBM’s brand experience and strategic design, talks about his three essentials for creating innovative new products.

“Onlookers often think that such marketplace and marketing successes are products of one-off “aha” moments of inspiration or unique research methods. But there are actual strategies that designers and businesses can follow to create such disruptive technologies, objects, and experiences.”

1. Support What is Likely to Fail.
“By this I don’t mean prioritize experiments and concepts that look like they might not sell; I mean consider technology and designs that might not seem to work for their intended purposes.”

He notes that Dyson takes prototypes that aren’t working and finds new uses for them, which is how they developed the Air Multiplier.

2. Do the Painfully Obvious.
“Often when innovation is the goal, there’s pressure to create an original product with an unusual name. But sometimes following a completely obvious path is an effective, albeit counterintuitive, way to achieve a design that is easy to use and ultimately popular.”

He references Facebook’s design approach and how the use of the “Like” button and “Photos” have less than clever names and are more direct.

3. Stay True to Your Design Principles.
“For decades, this philosophy has been pervasive at IBM. When Elliot Noyes was hired by Thomas Watson, Jr. in 1956, he brought a holistic approach to designing everything from products and exhibits to architecture and graphics. He believed that nothing exists in isolation: “Everything goes with everything,” he taught.”

This approach seems simple enough, and is something not only our designers and engineers can follow, but also our marketing and sales team. You can read the full article, IBM VP: My Three Essentials for Creating Innovative New Products, here.

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