Long Lasting Solutions and Innovation in Design

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Timeless Solutions and Innovation. The dictionary defines “Innovation” as “the introduction of something new”, but also “a new idea, method, or device”. In the past I wrote a reflection on the association of Design and Innovation (you can read it here), which was heavily influenced by my then recent experience with Innovation Labs. This article doesn’t veer so much in that direction. Instead I’m addressing a few examples of how these topics coexist, and different outcomes I’ve observed from a variety of scenarios. One of the favorite products I’ve worked on in the past, has been a fitness application. As I have referenced in some of my other writings, this application was a watershed moment in my career, simultaneously from a personal standpoint but also a professional one. While working on that product, all the pieces of the puzzle of life and career started to align themselves. Professionally, that product allowed me to understand the marriage of all my academic training, with the professional endeavors I had had thus far, but most importantly, it allowed me to learn substantially more on topics such as research, usability testing, analytics, user interviews, interaction design, visual design, data representation, brand awareness, omni-channel experiences, industrial design consistency, monetization, localization, gamification, among many other topics. From a personal standpoint, I had the opportunity and privilege of being mentored by one of the best Design professionals I’ve ever worked with. The reason I’m providing this context is to showcase, that the product itself did have to consider all the variables I’ve attested and listed before, but at its core, was, in fact, an Innovative solution, one that represented/unveiled a new business model for the Organization. We all clearly realized, that whatever this product was indeed going to be, should, in fact, be a long lasting solution. We were writing a new chapter for this brand & organization, one that we wanted to be a successful endeavor, which in fact has indeed become that. Building long lasting solutions or timeless ones, in essence, represents the distillation of what the Design Thinking process is all about: understanding who we are building solutions for, what problems are being solved and the virtuosity with which those solutions are implemented. Understanding the core of that problem/challenge, forced us to better outline the path we wanted to take our clients on, for the foreseeable future. That included of course, among many other factors, how we envisioned product updates, how we expanded our footprint, partnerships, how we expanded our universe/language/offerings. We realized that the future of long lasting products/solutions contemplates factors such as personalization, customization, omni channel experiences. Innovation isn’t and wasn’t solely about the introduction of something new. It was how we perpetuate an engagement with our users that is satisfying, constantly evolving, particularly as products mature and become more democratized on the market. All this of course has to be done with considerations of deploying solutions that don’t alienate users who expect behaviors, patterns, from using products and solutions over a lengthy period of time. What this entails, particularly for Designers and for the Design Thinking process, is an eternal parallel path of understanding how users evolve with their products, and understanding how the Market changes and impacts those same users. One other example I have attested from a different perspective, has been my relationship with Apple products. I’ve long been a user of their products. My schooling and training was done all in Apple computers. I have had an iPhone since 2009, and have to this day maintained my constant usage of this product and platform. I don’t consider myself a particular fan, nor a detractor. I’ve used their products, because during my professional career, they’ve demonstrated themselves to be reliable, functional, usable, and for the most part, I’ve never experienced dramatic occurrences with my devices. The brand has been heavily criticized for their lack of Innovation in the years since the sad passing of their mentor and leader, Steve Jobs. From a personal perspective, I’ll state that the iPhone was such a momentum occasion for that brand, and has since then become a synonym with what Innovation is about (and the impact it has on revenue and brand awareness is of course, monumental). However, when assessing how Innovation evolves, we should collectively consider the fact that those same innovative solutions become democratized and normative, with multiple versions of that same solution from a variety of brands on the market invading it across the board. Much like my example, the notion of Innovation becomes less about new versions of the same product, but how do we allow for innovation and maturity of solutions to become perfect bedfellows. Experiences are improved, product experiences that is, allowing for the user to understand the elasticity of the Universe that has been created. That also means, understand who your users are, how they use your product, their habits. Refinements of experiences can be at times jarring ones, which is why Design solutions that are indeed long lasting, should indeed start by understanding their users, without judgement, observing them. Only then can solutions become truly innovative, since they anticipate desires and aspirations, but also, they are the result of an established relationship. Bullying users, offsetting expectations, shaming users are tactics that have become to a certain extent commonly visible, though totally reprehensible. Maturing brands are ones that indeed self aware, adaptive, who understand the true meaning of innovation and of creating timeless solutions.

Inclusive Solutions and Reality Check. In one of my prior articles, I showcased an example of how technology and product solutions interact with older demographics (please check it here). This is a topic that not many Designers typically like to consider, since at times we like to collectively and myopically think that all our audiences are groups under the age of 35. The United Nations has listed Aging (or Ageing) under one of their Global Issues topics, and it is indeed something that we and our Design Thinking processes need to address. Solutions in order to be innovative and Long Lasting, and equally just as important, useful, have to be inclusive of a multitude of audiences and cultures that exist around the world. When devising solutions, inclusivity, accessibility, globalization, are fundamental in producing solutions that are indeed Business centric, but just as equally important, User and Socially Aware centric. Our audiences have different learning curves, different understanding processes, and these are all factors that need to be weighed in appropriately when creating these solutions. Only then can we truly develop products that withstand the test of time.

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