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Some believe product design to be merely a aesthetic differentiator, with functionality getting lost over time. Whereas some argue that it is a problem solver to make life easier. Below, design gurus come together to express and discuss various aspects of product design and its significance in today’s world.
Wise Advice - Issue 27
Wise Advice - Issue 27

CG: Product design is like creating an invention. Would you agree or disagree? Why?

Paul Sandip: Product Design is about identifying latent needs of consumers and converting them into aesthetically pleasing tangible objects with business potential. If there is a fine mix of art, technology, psychology and economics then the outcome is definitely innovative.

Mukul Goyal: I agree. Product Design in its truest classical sense is like inventing. We try to create something new and push the boundaries of possibility.

Subinay M: Yes I too agree on the fact that product design is like creating an invention because it involves a lot of rigorous strategies, ideation and methodologies to function together to create a product with the best material and manufacturing technology available. Finding the tiniest problems and creating something that can totally change the way the consumer thinks or acts, results in a great product. It is necessary to meet consumer demands and design products that simplify our lifestyle in today’s era.

Abhijit Basond: Yes indeed. There is a joy in challenging conventional thinking and bring positive changes with improved functionality. Product design elegantly brings new technologies, changing social and personal aspirations together. This unique ability creates new concepts, ideas and sometimes inventions.

CG: The world is changing, where aesthetics matter as much as functionality. How has product design changed over the past? What according to you, was the biggest factor that changed the way products are created by designers and accepted by the audience?

Mukul Goyal: With consumerism on the rise, product design is being used merely as a differentiator. Aesthetics have become more important and function is a constant in many ways. This is seriously impacting the real role of design.

Paul Sandip: The advancements in production technology have helped designers to create objects which can be mass produced as well as customised. With newer technologies finding space in social life, the behavioural tendencies of consumers have changed. Life need not be lived with frugal resources anymore. Fast life has become the norm and so have production techniques such as 3D printing.

Subinay M: Yes, the world is changing, and aesthetics are considered equally as important as function. Product design has adapted to this new trend. The consumer is becoming smarter and approachable as well as being receptive to technology. Everyone is creative in their own way and supporting something that really gives them a better way of living.

Abhijit Basond: Access to information and newer technologies have created amazing possibilities for product design. Today product design is expected to create an entire product experience, elegantly fusing physical and digital expectations. The users are well informed and good design has become basic hygiene for products across price segments.

CG: What would you say are some of the qualities of a product designer? Apart from creativity, what other skills are required to master the design form?

Abhijit Basond: User empathy, appropriate technology application, quick prototyping and basic human intuition are basic ingredients of good design process. Collaboration with multiple design and engineering expertise is key to new and relevant design innovations.

Mukul Goyal: They need to understand the users and their requirements from products, while identifying the need. This is an important skill. Technical knowledge of materials, processes and engineering helps as well.

Paul Sandip: There are three levels of design: visceral, behavioural and reflective. Design is a tool to amalgamate all the three aspects and creativity is all about being exploratory in nature. Observation and empathy to my understanding are the most important tools in a successful designer’s kit.

Subinay M: Organisation is the biggest and the smartest factor contributing to success. According to me, a designer has to have a peaceful mind and mood. A keen design sense and great research skills takes one towards intelligent innovation and product ideas too. No product can be perfect, hence, a designer must possess the patience to consider it again and again and reconceptualise if needed.

With consumerism on the rise, product design is being used merely as a differentiator. Aesthetics have become more important and function is a constant in many ways. This is seriously impacting the real role of design.

CG: People are becoming more conscious of social issues like eco-friendly, biodegradability, child labor etc. How can product designers incorporate such issues in their designs to make the world a better place? State some examples if you can.

Paul Sandip: Look and don’t just see. Empathy towards ones surroundings evoke a natural tendency to eco-consciousness and fair practice, which we normally tend to miss out on. Designers should understand that society expects them to be agents of change. Hence, designers to be responsible right from the conceptualisation to production stage of any product, packaging or service.

Mukul Goyal: People are aware of social issues but are not able to make the sacrifices and hard decisions required to implement them. There are two choices staring right at us; a radical path of disruptive change, or a slow path. Most people opt for the slow and safe path. Designers should try to make objects such that it is easier for people to make these choices.

Subinay M: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Social issues are making people conscious, but creating products with low research and an outlining knowledge is worse then creating something that harms the environment. Designers should teach and educate people about how sustainability can help the environment and take advice from people who live and create their own substitute products. A design mind never stops; we live for people and help them understand usability, aesthetics, function and even handling. It is all about team work; nothing will change if one designer thinks about creating something sustainable.

Abhijit Basond: Everyone in the world has moral rights over natural resources, even if they do not have economic access to the same. We, as designers, are extremely aware of our responsibilities and we do try to push clients to be sensitive to these core issues, but currently companies involve design at much later stage and very little can be done. The outcome of projects will be far sustainable if design thinking gets prime seat in the beginning of business planning.

CG: What are some of the factors that have affected automobile design? Is it the skills of designers that have brought about a revolution or the preferences of the audience?

Mukul Goyal: The stakes of launching a new automobile have gone up tremendously. Everybody wants a winner, and hence no one is willing to take risks. New ideas don’t have space in this very high stake game. The result is a marginally separated, dense market, with too many choices and little variables.

Subinay M: Research and a wider approach towards technology and hands on availability of new material, manufacturing and prototyping techniques contributes a lot towards bringing revolution in the automobile design industry. New automobile design schools have lead designers to create better methodologies in sustaining the environment.

Abhijit Basond: In today’s world, usability and safety are hygiene factors in automobile design and what truly makes a difference is application of technology and personal expression. Over the years, designers created expressive exteriors and amazing ecosystems inside which connected intuitively. Today technology connects us to our ecosystem outside and we could simultaneously manage many more things than just driving. Soon technology will connect cars to each other seamlessly on road and make driving safer as well. I believe, electric vehicles and IOT will really bring paradigm shift in conventional concept of transportation and design will be at forefront to make human values and sustainability core of new developments.

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