Differences in processes and outcomes between starting from in-house industrial designers and starting from R&D engineers in design-driven innovation
Authors: Yoshito Kubo, Osamu Sato
Abstract: This research aims to clarify the differences in development processes, new product outlines, and post-launch results between two cases of design-driven innovation (DDI), one starting from industrial designers and the other starting from engineers.SignificanceThe importance of design for gaining a competitive advantage is well documented in many countries with a strong tradition of industrial design, such as Italy, Sweden, and Japan. The DDI concept proposed by Roberto Verganti has been developed based on the analysis of more than 50 case studies, mainly from the manufacturing industry. However, while several studies have been published on the practical process of DDI, there are still few empirical studies that focus on the differences in the processes and outcomes of DDI when starting from in-house industrial designers and when starting from R&D engineers.MethodologyThis study adopted a qualitative approach using Yin's methodology and selected two cases related to high-end model electric fans launched by two Japanese electronics companies in the electric fan market, which is a mature market.In both cases, information on the development process was collected mainly through the use of authenticated secondary sources, augmented in part by direct interviews. On the other hand, the overviews of the new products were based on the product catalogs, and the post-launch results were analyzed based on POS data.Findings/Discussion of resultsNew product development related to the DDI process includes the following stages: design research, idea generation, concept design, product planning, legal protection (patents, etc.), detail design, prototype manufacturing, testing, and production.In the two cases, the in-house designers play a strategic role in the product planning stage, but the main role of idea generation is different. In the case where idea generation was led by the in-house designers, the appearance of the conventional electric fan was retained, but incremental innovation through modularization was achieved. On the other hand, in the case where the ideas were generated by engineers in the R&D department, a different technology was adopted for the air blowing mechanism, resulting in newness in terms of appearance and product concept.Both models won the Good Design Award and succeeded in establishing a new domain of high-end electric fans in a mature market. The products originating from in-house industrial designers could only increase the number of fan blades in order to compete with other companies' products in subsequent product development. In contrast, the design by R&D engineers achieved less-than-satisfactory results in terms of sales due to the newness of its design, but it had a positive impact on the company's subsequent product development and business expansion by applying the adopted technology to products other than electric fans. As a result of this study's considerations, it was found that differences occur in the development processes, new product outlines, and post-launch results when the originators are in-house industrial designers and when they are engineers.Originality/valueThis novel qualitative study will advance the accumulation of DDI process research related to new product development and provide suggestions on how to effectively manage and utilize in-house industrial designers and engineers to ensure successful DDI and its outcomes.
Keywords: Design-driven innovation (DDI), Industrial designer, New product development (NPD), R&D engineer, Mature products
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