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Guest DCrux

Why You Shouldn't Do "concept Designs"

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Guest csven
If the word "some" is a percentage less than 100% (as in even a blind squirrel finds the occasional acorn) then yes, it is possible. If authors confuse the word engineering and design (as is common usage) then it is possible for GM to have acceptable quality standards -- something GM continually argues -- and not so hot design.
You missed the comparison. One article says the engineering is sloppy (and provides engineering examples along with industrial design examples) and the other article says the products are competently engineered but lack emotional styling. Did you read the entire articles before you posted them?

 

These are ideas, phrases, behaviors, even products, which are magnets for misunderstanding and abuse
Whatever you call them, I'm still waiting for you to

 

1) provide some facts or relevant links to back up your assertions that these particular product concepts were developed by companies "never intending to learn from or develop product advances".

 

2) address whether you prefer more teevee commercials or such PR-only product concepts.

 

3) provide a reasonable suite of examples from the rest of the product design world.

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Guest DCrux
Furthermore, you've not addressed my contention that - assuming those concept are, in fact, only for PR - the money is already budgeted and it's arguably better to have blue sky concepts than more television commercials.

 

The money is already budgeted for what?

 

If shipping product is less than newsworthy, there are a couple of options. You can spend that money on commercials where the focus is on anything but the product. Wall Street Journal talked about a famous ad Chiat did for Nissan, using toys. While it got Chiat an industry award for creativity (entertainment value) sales tanked.

 

What's more, the model used in the ad was the one Iconic design people remembered. Unfortunately all the way around, Nissan didn't sell that model any longer. Thus is the power of a design a consumer (or ad agency) can actually identify.

 

Another option is price discounting and other special terms. Exactly what concept designs should make less necessary ... provided they arrive relatively intact on a showroom floor for sale.

 

The problem for the client is ad agencies get the awards for design and creativity. Fantasy products offer the chance to get the company into top of mind awareness for the kind of innovation and creativity of the cars missing from shipping product. This is genius. If an ad agency tried advertising fantasy products not for sale they would probably be fined for misleading advertising. GM can get the spotlight for innovative product, something not available to them through ad agency creative.

 

Is that bad? Could very well be, if it keeps you from producing today's product that is PR worthy. Again, back to the original article, "Technology giants like Microsoft and Nokia have also had a penchant for concocting concept products that never see the light of day in the market."

 

The basic premise is Apple does in advertising for shipping product what some other companies only fantasize about in speculative fantasy PR. What's bad about it is the same thing Nissan dealers encountered -- people coming in asking for a model the company didn't make any more. Nissan at least had the out they at one time did make a model which identified well with the public -- something concept designs we're talking about here can't boast.

 

I find it very armchair psychiatry noteworthy the ad agency didn't pick a current model to put in the ads. It might be interesting to find out whether there was a flurry of Nissan fantasy concept cars shortly thereafter.

 

Re: Focus Group. You wrote:

 

Sounds like a focus group to me. A pretty interesting one at that.

 

You brought it up, not me. I did belatedly try to follow-up, which may have been a little disjointed to those trying to follow the thread.

 

 

 

In the staunch defense of design concepts, perhaps the point has gotten lost. What happens when an ambitious, but executable, concept design ships in a market where competitor concepts sit on shelves collecting dust?

Saks, whose flagship is down the street, generates sales of $362 per square foot a year. Best Buy (Charts) stores turn $930 - tops for electronics retailers - while Tiffany & Co. (Charts) takes in $2,666. Audrey Hepburn liked Tiffany's for breakfast. But at $4,032, Apple is eating everyone's lunch.

-- Apple: America's best retailer

 

The concept design to shipping product gap should be a key indicator of who's eating who's lunch.

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Guest csven
The money is already budgeted for what?
If your assertion is that these product concepts are only intended for marketing and PR purposes, then logically they'd fall under the relevant corporate budget and not under an R&D budget. Thus, the question is, if the money is already budgeted for a PR-only use, which would you rather have: a PR-only product concept that serves no other purpose or a television commercial?

 

It's a simple: which do you prefer? And the reason why I'm asking comes more or less down to what you're now saying:

The problem for the client is ad agencies get the awards for design and creativity. Fantasy products offer the chance to get the company into top of mind awareness for the kind of innovation and creativity of the cars missing from shipping product.
Re-read what I originally wrote - "means money being transferred away from design firms and over to ad agencies" - and address that issue. Would you rather have ad agencies get these jobs or design firms? The money is going to come from the same budget and - according to your assertion - has nothing to do with R&D because we're discussing "companies which use the concepts as marketing props, never intending to learn from or develop product advances".

 

people coming in asking for a model the company didn't make any more.
And this is the cause of GM's downfall? Color me skeptical.

 

Re: Focus Group. You wrote:
Sounds like a focus group to me. A pretty interesting one at that.
You brought it up, not me.
I disagree. By citing that focus group example (deceptively dressed as actual Industrial Designers doing fantasy product concepts), you brought it up. If you'd either read the stuff to which you'd linked or been honest as to what it actually said we'd not be on this tangent.

 

The concept design to shipping product gap should be a key indicator of who's eating who's lunch.
Personally, I'd still like to have some examples of these heinous fantasy products destroying corporations that seems to so concern you and which, apparently, should concern all of us.

 

Where are all the corporate PR-only product concepts in:

- small appliances (exempting the Thalia stuff from almost ten years ago)?

- cameras (exempting Colani's stuff from decades ago)?

- bathroom fixtures?

- pet products?

- lab equipment?

- home accessories?

- children's toys?

- home audio gear?

- surgical tools?

- tableware and dinnerware?

- RTA furniture?

- installed medical equipment?

- hardware accessories?

- personal grooming?

- exercise equipment?

- powertools?

- air conditioners?

- hot tubs?

- farm equipment?

- desk accessories?

- plumbing?

- wind turbines?

- dental equipment?

- musical instruments?

- large format printers?

- mass transit rail systems?

- baby products?

- welding equipment?

- electronic test equipment?

- scuba gear?

- food storage?

- garden products?

- sporting goods?

- large home appliances?

- professional painting equipment?

- industrial machinery?

- computers!?

- etc...

 

Given the degree to which you seem to believe such PR-only/"never intending to learn from or develop product advances" concepts impact everything, you should be able to provide a respectable number of examples in those other product categories.

 

Please share cuz I don't see it, and if those jobs are out there I'd like to chase a few of them.

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Guest DCrux

Nowhere in the Nokia listing is the word focus group used, nor is there a group. These are scattered individuals in different countries submitting ideas like a bottled water phone. It's not even a decent brainstorm.

 

The article accompanying the gallery does, however, specifically point out "For Nokia, which is obsessive about consumer research, the site is an alternative to the focus groups and surveys that are usually used to gauge consumer reaction to a new product." Nokia would seem to differ with your assumption.

 

I offer this as some evidence I did read the article ...and was able to recall it afterward. I'll not hold my breath for the bottle phone or peace vibe phone. I'll get off this tangent noting I think Nokia actually found something worse than the focus group.

 

Other industries using Concept Designs as PR Stunts.

 

Food. There are lists of horrendously expensive dishes done not so much to sell as to gather publicity. While you do sometimes see the drink or food, there's very little evidence of an actual sale. Burger King Launches World's Most Expensive Hamburger While this was supposed to be for sale, I didn't see ads, nor any figures on a single sale. Small wonder, really -- it's not targeted to the Burger King customer. Why not donate a portion of sales of regular hamburgers to charity? Could it possibly be there's far less publicity potential for that?

 

You can find similar PR Stunts for the "most expensive" category, but it only makes sense when your target customer is upscale -- like Sharper Image. None of these ever announce even a single sale, which would seem to be publicity worthy.

 

Fashion is a particular fan of the bizarre concept design/PR Stunt. Some pieces are custom made to the model wearing it, not for sale. You may have a Japanese vending machine dress, just as someone has the original bat mobile. And I figure they're going for the notoriety, it's no far stretch of the imagination companies need to distinguish their otherwise undistinguished products too.

 

Samsung's Bizarre New Concept PCs, as the article states good luck trying to buy one. Seemed to get coverage though, didn't it.

 

Din-Ink just what everyone is waiting for, turn your pen into cutlery. I'm sure this was thoroughly user tested and should be out any time. The important idea here was the 'concept design contest' as never-shipping design concept multiplier. Note the contest, namely the more freaky entrants, get the publicity.

 

Take your pick ePaper, eJewelry, flexible electronic wraparound videoplayer.

 

Windows Vista SideShow Fridge Magnet might become a shipping product ...however, it's been a recurring theme since about win 98 -- no sale. The wireless kitchen concept -- where your fridge was supposed to send a grocery list to your cell phone of everything you're short on -- not shipping. I'd skip the Internet Toaster ...but that's just fun to mention.

 

IMAGEK EFS-1 had a clever concept, turn any film camera into a digital camera with a form factor of a film cartridge. Even though the press release had announced a concept, ten years later it still hasn't shipped. Beware startups bearing press releases, even when they do demo prototypes.

 

5 million dollar 4 bedroom underwater house interesting, but no pictures of shipping product or prototype model sub-homes. Good, well publicized trial balloon, no product.

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Guest csven
Nowhere in the Nokia listing is the word focus group used, nor is there a group. These are scattered individuals in different countries submitting ideas like a bottled water phone. It's not even a decent brainstorm.
Nor is it an actual product design concept effort developed by professionals.

 

This is what you wrote:"Nokia's Dream Phones. Nokia has got the idea in grand fashion. Why bother with modeling at all? A phone which emits "peace vibes?" ...You're kidding me -- right? This has publicity stunt written all over it." So exactly what "idea" do they get in grand fashion?

 

One minute you're complaining about product concepts intended for nothing but PR, and the next you're complaining about a "peace vibe" thing a consumer(!) suggested. Sounds more like you're looking for something to complain about than addressing the issue.

 

Perhaps you have other ways to understand a foreign culture. I personally think going to the people isn't such a bad idea. That's what Nokia is doing and what is being called out for attention in that slideshow. And if Nokia gets a little PR from BusinessWeek (for doing the kinds of innovative product research more companies should probably be doing), does that negate the effort to learn and understand the people of Mumbai? To perhaps come up with ideas that might help them more effectively address the wants and needs of a portion of the global market that usually gets hand-me-downs?

 

Should Nokia design for wealthy nations only, and the third world just gets whatever is left over as usual? That doesn't sound like something the ID profession normally preaches. It's not something I'd recommend.

 

The article accompanying the gallery does, however, specifically point out "For Nokia, which is obsessive about consumer research, the site is an alternative to the focus groups and surveys that are usually used to gauge consumer reaction to a new product." Nokia would seem to differ with your assumption.
And what assumption is that? That they're doing some kind market research that "sounds like a focus group to me"? It still "sounds" that way to me; a different kind of focus group.

 

I think Nokia actually found something worse than the focus group.
Sounds to me like you're the kind of designer that doesn't believe non-designers can provide worthwhile input. I guess that's where we part ways.

 

-

Other industries using Concept Designs as PR Stunts.

Food - Food? FOOD? Are you joking? From that long list of Industrial Design product categories you start off with a hamburger? for charity? offered for a limited time only? in one restaurant? How amazingly lame. That's like the U.S. GAO changing guidelines to include burger-flipping as a "manufacturing job" to mislead Americans. Next.

 

Fashion (your link doesn't go to a specific entry so I'm assuming it's this one) - You'll notice I didn't include Fashion on my list. Industrial Designers aren't Fashion Designers. They might design shoes (oh look, we're back to citing examples from a top three most-myopic category), but they're arguably not fashion designers. Besides, the fashion world is built on designs that aren't sold; which are PR-only efforts! Many successful fashion designers show the craziest, non-shipping stuff around; the exact counterpoint to your assertion. By not including fashion I'm probably giving you a better chance to make your point. To bring them in as an example is massive fail, afaic. Next.

 

Samsung's Bizarre New Concept PCs - Okay. Finally. So now do a little research on Samsung:

- is the company doing better or worse than it did, say, five years ago? Anyone? Last I read, Samsung overtook Sony in some important way; no small feat if it's true. Is that the sign of a company doing something wrong?

- are those concepts only for PR, or was there some other reason for doing them (see my earlier example)? Until we know the answer to that question, we can't legitimately use them as an example of the kind of activity you're railing against: product concepts shown by a corporation "never intending to learn from or develop product advances".

 

Din-Ink - This is a competition entry submitted by a bunch of designers. Where's the corporation behind it? Or are you now saying that ALL concept design is bad; including student work? I hope not. I don't know of any ID students planning on manufacturing their student work.

 

Y'know, you're stretching so hard to find examples I'm pulling a muscle.

 

ePaper, eJewelry - Completely viable concept, imo. But rather than argue that point, I'll simply ask: what corporation is behind this? I see the design firm name, but what manufacturing corporation was behind this supposedly PR-only stunt? Or are design firms no longer allowed to show concepts because ... uh ... they don't intend to manufacture them like they ... ummm ... usually do?

 

IMAGEK EFS-1 - Had to go back to 1998 for this one. Wow.

 

And so this effort definitively, absolutely, without doubt was only a PR effort? They never tried to develop and ship a product? There was no working proto ... oh wait ... Lookie here: "The previously-thought-of-as-vapourware company Imagek has changed its name to Silicon Film and is now touting a 24 shot, 1280 x 1024 insertable digital film cartridge solution for traditional 35mm cameras." (that link was really hard to find; I had to click on the 2nd link that Google provided when I searched "IMAGEK EFS-1").

 

And yes, there apparently was something besides PR-only activity: "In a dramatic change this year though, Silicon Film had actual working units in their PMA booth, snapping pictures of anyone who'd sit still for a few moments in their booth. We're pleased to include a couple here".

 

Guess we'll just forget this example. Kinda like how the original article in the opening post cites Microsoft Surface as one example of "concept products that never see the light of day in the marketplace" ... right before the news additional units are being shipped to Sheraton Hotels.

 

5 million dollar 4 bedroom underwater house - Notice that I also didn't include Architecture in my list. And even if we were to count this (at only a few months old), we'd have to go through the same routine as we did with Samsung. Assuming it's PR-only vaporware - like with the IMAGEK EFS-1 and MS Surface - would be presumptuous.

 

And lastly,

Windows Vista SideShow Fridge Magnet might become a shipping product ...however, it's been a recurring theme since about win 98 -- no sale. The wireless kitchen concept -- where your fridge was supposed to send a grocery list to your cell phone of everything you're short on -- not shipping. I'd skip the Internet Toaster ...but that's just fun to mention.
Which, afaic, all fall into the Thalia "smart appliance" category I included in my list. And since you apparently don't know what Thalia is, it was a Sunbeam effort ... but unrelated to that Sunbeam-branded one-off, independently fabricated Internet Toaster from way back in 1990 that you're mentioning as if it was somehow relevant when it clearly isn't.

 

You really should do some research. It doesn't look good when you miss obvious details like this.

 

-

 

Your examples are essentially worthless, in my opinion. Besides being mistaken, irrelevant and badly outdated, you basically ignored most of the categories I provided. Out of all those other areas you don't seem to have found anything conclusive. Even I'm surprised, since I conceded some might exist. But to find nothing? Tells me there's much less going on than even I believed.

 

I get the impression that what you're really defending here is your Apple fanboi honor, and for that reason I'll give this thread a rest and let someone else try to make sense of what you're trying to say. I have yet to see anything that would convince me and at this point only see you digging yourself deeper into an unsubstantiated, opinionated mess.

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