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Good design can smarten up your bottom line

Product design has become integral, not only to the success of individual products but also to the success of major corporations. CNBC’s Mike Hegedus reports.
/ Source: CNBC

Here’s a question: How many designers does it take to mash potatoes? The answer is three; one to do it, and two more to take notes.

Product design has become integral, not only to the success of individual products, but also to the bottom line success of major corporations.

Whether you’re pounding a nail, breaking an egg, running the vacuum cleaner or even mashing potatoes, the little things in life you never really think about are huge business.

A potato masher isn’t always a potato masher, at least not in the Manhattan headquarters of world-renowned, 75-person design firm Smart Design.

“We design products you see everyday, from the moment you wake up in the morning, until you go to sleep,” notes Devon Stowell, CEO of Smart Design. “You’re using things all day long.”

To design these products they have to think about them, watch them, invite people to use them in their kitchen and take notes through a two-way mirror, or video kids brushing their for hours. Why? So they can design a new toothbrush for kids.

“I think one of the mistakes a lot of designers might make is if they’re going to design something for kids, they don’t get kids involved,” said Thomas Dair, president of Smart Design. It’s just a bunch of adults thinking, “Oh, kids will like this ... kids will like that,” he added.

While design used to be an “add on,” or something that came at the end of the product creation process, it has now moved to the front of the line. For example, how is Target different from Wal-Mart?

It’s design.

What really separates thousands of similarly-functioning products in the multi-billion dollar house wares, or electronics markets from each other? Again, it’s design, not only the design of a product’s look, but also of its inner workings; the consumer’s “experience.”

Market pressure has compressed design time from years to months, and it has expanded design responsibility; how the consumer “feels” about the product ultimately reflects on the overall brand.

The idea is to be able to push a button and have a product do whatever the hell it’s supposed to do notes Smart Design’s Dair.