DNA Decoder: Sohrab Vossoughi

Ziba Design, Portland, Ore.

The field of design research is moving fast, but if you look far enough out to the edge, you just might see Sohrab Vossoughi, founder and president of ZIBA Design. Vossoughi is taking traditional product design methods (he began by designing computers and printers for Hewlett Packard Co. (HPQ )) and transforming them into new ways of creating deeply emotional consumer experiences.

ZIBA's research for Logitech on mobile-phone headsets, for example, showed that most people prefer wearable technology they can touch and intuitively use, don't need to fuss over as they rush through the day, and which looks good near the face. Vossoughi then thought up a range of stories about types of potential users -- the Road Warrior, the Teen Talker, the Family Connector -- and tested them out. That led to "Logi," as Vossoughi calls the company, to come out with a variety of new headsets.

Vossoughi is also moving Logitech into PC speakers. "You first help your client discover their own corporate DNA and then extend that DNA into other brand experiences," says Vossoughi. In fact, he believes that patenting intellectual property may soon be out of date. "When you create new experiences out of your own DNA and no one else can do it, that is your protection," he maintains. "You don't need legal protection."

ZIBA's client research is moving beyond observing what people do to why they do it in the first place. Vossoughi terms this TCI, for trend and consumer insight, and he has cultural and psychiatric anthropologists delving into the subject of motivation. One important insight is a product of that research: Relevance and authenticity are increasingly important to consumers, especially young ones.

Vossoughi is using his research discoveries to build what he calls "branded environments," signature spaces for FedEx (FDX ) and Umpqua Bank. He is also helping KitchenAid with strategy. If you want to know just what 4type of cook you are and why, just ask Sohrab Vossoughi.

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