Kyocera in the News
The Importance of Design
by Frank Tyneski - Kyocera Communications, Inc. Senior Director of Design
We hardly ever stop and think about what is behind the day-to-day things that we use in our life. How were things like your coffee maker, your car, your kids' toys, computer, or cell phone conceived? What inspired the designers of those things to design them the way they did, and most importantly, what made you choose them from the vast variety of models and brands?
Being someone who has been involved in product design for a broad spectrum of audiences and markets - from commercial and government, to network and consumer-electronics products, and even toys, my job has been seeking creative answers to those questions and then turning them into real-life products.
Early in my career, working in the automotive industry, I learned about the importance of designing products that were not only beautiful but functional. Beauty plus function is the DNA of all aspirational product category leaders. Beyond styling, I learned that it's just as important for the user to enjoy the car's interior, both for its comfort and functionality. At Kyocera, we consider the user-interface to be that interior. A comfortable, familiar and charming user experience is not only necessary but paramount for building and sustaining brand loyalty.
Great design is not only about aspirational value - there are many other elements that make a consumer buy a product. People are looking for products that spark their imagination, that inspire, intrigue and surprise them. Designing toys for a well-recognized brand was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. It taught me to recognize the importance of play value. While there were certain basic requirements to meet, the process of creating new toys [at least then] was a truly open-ended design scenario. It was a wonderful experience for me; I got to see people from all sorts of life get together with the sole purpose of creating play value. Our imagination was our limit.
Now, play value is not something that applies only for kids or toys. As adults we also look for that when buying a new product, the only difference is that they are more sophisticated. For example, we have toys to work out with (MP3 players), we have toys to work with (computers), and we have toys to communicate with (cell phones).
The wireless industry is the perfect playground in this sense. We've all witnessed the cultural revolution that cell phones have created in the last decade. What's so fascinating about the wireless industry is that there is still a long way to go and I see many innovations on the horizon.
Given the dynamic, and at the same time relatively early stage of the wireless mobile telecom industry, this represents a very exciting arena for designers to express our creativity. Personally, it is a really great opportunity to head a team of 25+ designers whose only purpose is designing new "toys" for sophisticated people, that are not only fun, but also functional and reliable.
In order to innovate in this industry, we need to be conscious of the way research and design work together. Traditionally these two groups have worked independently or in a "linear" fashion. Typically, first researchers gathered information from the market and then presented that data to the designers to study, decipher and use to create products.
We have changed that at Kyocera Communications, Inc., and now the designers actively participate in the research process. We are in the field, understanding and getting inspired by the users within their own context. We look at what their interests are; what matters to them; and what their environment looks like. We want to know what defines their behavior patterns, and how they talk about the things that interest them.
Going through this process we have learned many interesting things about our audience and have segmented it into a number of groups:
- Millennials - young people between 13 and 18 years old. Of this group nearly 70% use their phone for texting or instant messaging. They look for aspirational value, and unique design elements, features and applications. For example, teens prefer SMS over email, but they want their phone to look like an email-enabled smart phone. And thanks to texting on a QWERTY, they can use their phone to discreetly update with their parents, without being embarrassed in front of their peers.
- Expressionists - people between 25 and 45. Their phone must be functional, but they are also drawn to those with more cutting-edge technology and unique looks and features. But if it's not practical, or doesn't meet their specific needs, even if it looks great they won't buy it. For example, young parents often quiet their children by offering them their phone to play with, when in a shopping cart or car seat. So phones in this segment have to be durable and lasting.
- Simplists - 50 - 70 year old people. They are primarily concerned with functionality, and are looking for a phone which offers a larger screen and keypad. But at the same time, it matters to them a great deal that the phone looks good, and not just like something for old people. They want to look empowered, as if they are part of working society. They also care very much about what their grandkids think of them - Grandpa may be getting old but he's still pretty cool.
In my mind the real magic for creating great products is to understand the values of two different purchasing behaviors: classicly-minded people and romantically-minded people. The purchasing process of a classically-minded individual is based on, "What is it?; Is it useful?; How much does it cost" and so forth, as opposed to a romantically-minded person whose purchase intent is more emotionally driven. The romantic's response is "I like it; I want it; What is it?." I suppose we all fall victim to this romantic sense sometimes. For example, I recently bought a beautifully-designed cigarette lighter, yet I don't smoke. Designers at Kyocera strive to resolve this dichotomy of the classical and romantic visions of reality.
The future of design is no longer about the designing an artifact, rather it's about merging the physical product with its digital experience in a holistic way. Today, quality, design, usability, features and brand are pretty much baseline consumer requirements in the marketplace. To be successful we need combine those elements and create ecosystems or experiential environments that are both defensible, sustainable and loved by the users, what I call the "walled garden." Simplified, it's when the device, its applications and infrastructure are so well integrated that they deliver user experiences which not only appeal to users but actually build a greater sense of community by inviting and holding those customers. This is Kyocera's trajectory and I've sourced designers around the globe to help me fulfill this vision. One of those trusted luminaries said to me, "designers see the world not for how it is, but how it could be." I can't think of a more inspiring idea.