Using design research to reach consumers is one of the fastest-growing trends around the world. Smart companies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia are moving beyond designing merely for style. They are adapting design thinking and strategies to get much closer to their customers, who increasingly play significant roles in the development and creation of companies' new products and services. Cultural anthropologists, videographers, and psychologists are replacing conventional market researchers in the rush to really understand consumer behavior. And companies and designers are putting together teams to brainstorm about totally new ways of appealing to consumers. Not every corporation or design firm is yet on this wavelength. But those on this page certainly are. Samsung and Nike (NKE ), IDEO and Design Continuum are leading the way.
BIKEBUG RADIO CONCEPT
Designer: Design Continuum
When two cyclists want to talk to each other, they have to ride side by side, which can be dangerous. The Bikebug is a voice-activated two-way radio. A radio attaches to the back of a helmet, and a mike-earpiece fastens onto the helmet strap.
This concept has a portable printer for business travelers that moves in a circle rather than sliding back and forth on a flat plane. Says juror Christopher Alviar, principal at CG/A. "This idea sparks the imagination; a revolutionary design..."
HIGH-PERFORMANCE GOLF TEES
Nike (NKE ) has 33 new tee ideas. They include tees made of fertilizer; tees that fit in a wallet; tees that disintegrate on impact; and the Mojo, a tee with a liquid center containing Tiger Woods's sweat. (Remember, it's just a concept.)
Brainstorm about people and products, and this is what you get: a scale that becomes just another tile in the floor after people use it.