Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Power of Human Touch

Handmade Full Size BMW Clay Model

In a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, Joe Dehner, head of Dodge & Ram Truck exterior design for Fiat Chrysler commented about the power of handmade models and an unexpected result of the move to CAD in American car styling;

"Twenty-five years ago, as milling and computer-aided design programs transformed the design process, it seemed clay models would be all but extinct.

...the new technologies <were supposed to be> a way to shorten the design process and cut costs. But carmakers... were turning out lackluster vehicles due to a lack of hands-on interaction and being unable to effectively evaluate styling.

There was an infatuation with the technology where there was a rush to do totally digital... but the one thing about <clay modeling> is you're adding the human element."

As designers we take upon ourselves the task of creating in response to needs. The choice is always before us to determine who's needs those are. If there is a lesson to learn early as designers it is that the odds are significantly stacked in that decision.  80% of new products fail in the first five years and one of the most significant reasons is that they aren't wanted by customers.

So, who is your customer? Is there only one customer? At the start of the creative process, there are usually several other people between us and the client. Each of those people can become a help or a hinderance in the creative process. The more "selfishness" is injected in the design chain, the greater the chance the final result will miss the target.

There is a secondary effect of design egocentricity; Designing low demand products for mass production is among the most wasteful of endeavors. It siphons off physical and temporal resources, filling garbage dumps rather than human needs.

As a designer, when someone comes to you for help, they are doing so because design is something which they cannot do for themselves. Responsiveness to real human needs at every step of the design chain is the name of the game. You may be the most talented designer on the planet, but if your solution fails to meet the needs of your client, your company's customers, or your show's guests, your efforts will be wasted. Everyone in the design chain needs to understand this.

In the end, it's the responsive, human touches on the design elements which resonate most deeply, create the strongest bond and most enduring brand loyalty in the marketplace.

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