Just like our individual identity makes us unique, brand identity helps a business set itself apart from its competitors in the market. An organization’s brand design shapes a company and its products. We recently caught up with one of our savvy lead designers, Dario Distefano, Senior Industrial Designer, for Huemen, to uncover his team’s creative process when transforming a novel design from ideation to conception, and their approach in creating a powerful design concept that enables consumers to fall in love with a product.
1) Can you share details of your design process with us? From ideation to conception. What is the Power of Design to you personally? Is the design language of a consumer product different than that of one created for a different audience?
Designing a product is a journey, defined by a methodic process based on understanding user needs, observing scenarios, learning from the market with the goal of ideating concept directions for further development.
Working at Huemen, for us the design approach is structured into five very distinctive stages:
Briefing: The very first stage it is all about the product and the problem statement we are trying to solve. The approach of designing a headphone that also serves as a fashion statement varies completely from the one of designing a sound bar that breaths in your living environment. It is also important to understand the brand we design for. JBL has a totally different personality compared to Harman Kardon or AKG. Each of those brands have a very distinctive brand design guideline.
Research & Analysis: The second stage is all about gathering relevant information and learning from our observations. Who are the main competitors? Who is the target group? What are their expectations to this specific product? How is the product being used? What are the pain points and what are the expectations the product we are designing? Based on this and the previous stage we are able to define the path forward for ideation, the creative stage.
Ideation: This is where the fun starts. Generating tons of ideas. Conceptualizing potential product scenarios. Printing and testing multiple 3D prototypes. Applying latest design trends before finally defining the product direction that fits the product and the brand best.
Development: All our products need to go into mass production at some point. During this stage we work very closely with our product management and engineering teams to ensure that our design concept is manufacturable. Therefore it is very imperative to understand the manufacturing process and find a solution that is easy to assemble and cost effective.
Presentation: Our goal is to make people fall in love with the product and ultimately with the brand. To achieve this, a holistic product communication and brand experience throughout all consumer touch points is key. During this stage we generate all necessary materials, like photorealistic visuals and final product presentations to support our sales and marketing teams.
For us design is powerful, design is meaningful, design represents people, and design enables people to fall in love with a product.
2) You were part of the team that designed the Clip 3. What consumer trends impacted the design of this new product?
The JBL CLIP 3 program has been one of the most complex ones I’ve been part of since I joined Harman. It’s the result of a deep process of industrial design and extensive color-, material-, and finish strategy.
Inspired by the growing street fashion and sneakers industry trends, JBL CLIP 3 is an interpretation of how a consumer electronic piece could become part of your personal outfit.
The speaker has been designed for people who love to share music on the go with the ambition to show off their speaker as a fashion accessory, hooked on their belt, or bag following the latest fashion industry color trends.
3) As well as designing from the ground up, you've "refreshed" products, such as the Clip 3. How does the design process differ in this instance?
Observe and learn from the users, or become the user. That’s the key element on the learning process of a product to upgrade, especially when you are doing it for a brand like JBL, whose users are proud of owning their products.
In the case of JBL CLIP3, before joining Harman I was already an active user of JBL Clip2, as I love to have my music loud like a soundtrack of my journey, basically I was bringing it always with me.
So I had the opportunity on a daily basis to analyze the product experience as user first, understanding the strength and limitations, and after as a designer, trying to imagine how such a product could be improved into an ultimate version.
3) As well as "refreshing" products, you’ve designed products from the ground up, such as JBL Boombox. How does the design process differ in this instance?
Observe and learn from the users, or become the user. Analyze the scenario and use cases, translating the needs into strengths through the design. Those are key elements that represents the learning process of the preparation of a product from the ground up.
In the case of JBL BOOMBOX, the goal was to design the biggest portable speaker of the JBL product line.
An exciting task, as well as challenging. As to call “portable” a speaker of +5 kilograms requires a deep understatement of ergonomics and design proportions.
The ambition of JBL BOOMBOX was to design THE “Ghetto blaster of the future” keeping the recognizable soul and technologies of the JBL portable speakers with the nostalgic use cases of the iconic 80s’ ghetto blasters.
In order to create an appealing product to millions of users, the design process has been shaped into a pragmatic evaluation of every component through multiple prototypes, from handmade paper mockups to 3D printed surfaces. Made to validate weight distribution, cosmetic proportions and ergonomics.
The enabler of the character, usability and functionality of JBL BOOMBOX is the uni-body handle.
A design choice made to reduce sensibly the weight of the product, to protect the body as bumper, to fit into majority of hands and to give an unmistakable look to the loudspeaker.
4) Can you give us an example of a product in which you've brought a different approach to the use of unique material choices?
One of the latest products I have been part of is the JBL XTREME 2. A challenge as a designer to redesign the second generation of a product that everyone knows and loves like the first generation of the JBL XTREME.
By designing waterproof speakers, together with our engineering team, we developed a material strategy that replicate the effect of the image distortion of an object immersed inside the water, using an integration of plastics and metals molded together.
We developed a new Thermoplastic Polyuretane with high transparency performances and high elasticity resistance, created with the ambition to support the new global material strategy for the new generation of JBL Portable Speakers.
Using different thicknesses of Thermoplastic molded on top 3D shaped metals, we have been able to define a new dimension of cosmetic features, creating visual illusions, just like on the feet of XTREME2 using a transitional change of thickness of the transparent Thermoplastic makes the metal ring look bended inside.
5) What challenges does the design of consumer electronics bring? What are the ultimate rewards in terms of bringing these products to life, and seeing them out in the world?
Designing a consumer electronic represents the responsibility of influencing any aspect of the product design, behavior and experience.
In the case of an audio related product, the designer needs to work closely with all the functional team members, understanding of acoustic requirements, electric and mechanical limitations, and being able to translate them into appealing and visual attributes.
Simplicity and Authenticity, are the two values that I always keep in mind as goal for the product experience of a consumer electronics.
It is definitely an ultimate reward seeing the product you’ve developed spreading globally, and watching the end user naturally behaving with it.
Built on brand legacy, technical power and a robust design reputation, Huemen is at the helm of designing human-centered technology to deliver next-generation customer experiences. Learn more about our process: http://www.huemendesign.com/