Topic 2: Product innovation

Innovation and the continuous development of new and improved products are key to the design process. This topic considers the relationship between the design cycle and the product cycle. It moves on to explore the role of invention in innovation and the impact of market pull and technology push on product innovation. Establishing and developing markets for products are a critical element of the product cycle.

2.1Designers and the product cycle

Describe the product cycle.

Discuss the role of the designer in the product cycle.
Designing is part of the product cycle: as a need is generated, a product is designed, made and sold, eventually becoming obsolete. The cycle is complicated by distributors, retailers, accountants and production engineers, all of whom have an influence over the cycle. Although the designer is an integral part of the process, he or she is not necessarily in control (unlike in the design process). Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacture (CAM), where a prototype is produced by the designer from his or her personal computer (PC), blurs this distinction.

Outline the product cycle in terms of early, mature and late stages of development.
In the early stages of the product cycle, many changes to the product take place until it develops to the mature stage, where it is diffused into the market, gains acceptance and sells well. In the late stage, the
product begins to decline in need and therefore in sales.

Identify products that are at the early, mature and late stages of their product cycle.
The ballpoint pen is in the mature stage, as it still sells well although the design does not change much. The cassette tape is in the late stage, as it has been overtaken by successive generations of products.

Compare the design cycle with the product cycle.
Highlight how the design process is aimed at producing a suitable solution to a problem, and that the product cycle is concerned with putting that solution into commercial practice.

Discuss why for many products the product cycle has shortened.
Compare a laptop computer and a ballpoint pen. Laptop computers are an intensely competitive market, with size and power being key issues.

2.2 Invention and innovation

Define invention and innovation.

Outline the stages of innovation.
Developing an idea into a viable product; its production; marketing and sales; followed by redesign; and the cycle or spiral continues.

Discuss the importance of science to invention and innovation.
Science explains how the world is.

Discuss the importance of technology to invention and innovation.
Technology uncovers new possibilities for materials, manufacturing techniques and processes.

Explain why the majority of inventions fail to become innovations.
Consider marketability, financial support, marketing, the need for the invention, price, resistance to change, and aversion to risk.

Explain the relevance of design to innovation.
For continued innovations (re-innovation), products and processes are constantly updated (redesigned) to make them more commercially viable and to give consumers choice and improved products.

Define dominant design, diffusion into the marketplace, market pull and technology push.

Describe a design context where dominant design is relevant.
For example, ballpoint pen (Biro), Apple iPod, Coca-Cola

Explain the difficulties of getting a product to diffuse into the marketplace.
Consider local, national and global competition. The problems of getting novel products to market include product launches and marketing.

Explain why it is difficult to determine whether market pull or technology push is the impetus for the design of new products.
Push and pull are present in most successful innovations. The explanation should apply only to the origin of the idea or where the idea seems to have been generated.

Define lone inventor.

Discuss why it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a successful lone inventor.
Most products are now extremely complex and rely on expertise from various disciplines. Most designs are developed by multidisciplinary teams.

Explain why lone inventors often find it difficult to work in the design departments of large companies.
They are often used to setting their own targets rather than working as members of teams. They can be dogmatic in their methodology and less flexible than team workers.

Define product champion.

Compare the lone inventor with the product champion.
The lone inventor may lack the business acumen to push the invention through to innovation. The product champion is often a forceful personality with much influence in a company. He or she is more astute at being able to push the idea forward through the various business channels and is often able to consider the merits of the invention more objectively.

Explain why innovators may have difficulty in obtaining financial support for an invention.
Most people with money to invest will be inclined to wait until it is clearer whether an invention is going to be successful before investing: the problem is to get them to take the risk.

2.3 People and markets

Define technophile, technocautious and technophobe.

Explain how people can be broadly classified according to their reactions to technological change.
People’s reactions to technological change vary depending on their values and personal circumstances. First-order effects and second-order effects should be taken into account, for example, personal gain in owning a car versus social and environmental considerations.

Define corporate strategy.

Describe the corporate strategy referred to as “pioneering”.
Pioneering means being ahead of the competitors by introducing a new product first. It is the most risky (costly) strategy but one with the potential for the largest gains. A pioneering company requires a strong research and development (R&D) capability, which is expensive. A pioneering company needs to be financially secure and requires product champions to push new ideas. Consider the Sony or Apple companies and their various pioneering developments. Good market research can offset some risk, but is problematic for novel products.

Describe the corporate strategy referred to as “imitative”.
The imitative strategy aims to develop a product similar to the “pioneered” product as quickly as possible. It takes advantage of R&D invested by others, and is less risky, but is based on a strong development capability.

Explain the benefits for a company of using a hybrid strategy.

Define market penetration.

Describe a strategy that a company would use to enhance market penetration.
Consider product promotion through marketing.

Define market development.

Describe how a company would undertake market development.
The identification of new markets for products, for example, nylon was originally developed for parachutes.

Define product development.

Describe one example of how a company undertakes product development.
Consider adding variations to a product to develop a range of products building on an established brand, for example, ice cream, snack food products, chocolate products (Kit Kat, Mars bars).

Define diversification.

Describe one example of diversification.
For example, a company manufacturing three-pin electrical plugs may consider producing them in a range of colours or from materials of different textures and/or material properties.

Define market sector and market segmentation.

Outline two ways in which markets may be segmented.
Consider income, age, lifestyle, geographical location, and so on.

Define robust design and product family.

Discuss an example of a robust design that evolved into a product family.