(Almost) fresh from university, I started working at Veeel Designers, responsible for the strategic design department. Strategic product design is a direction in design that appears to be difficult to understand. Why is it that people want a well designed product, without thinking about the design strategy upfront? While when you think about it, product strategy is clearly recognizable in successful products.
After I graduated, almost a year ago, I had to find a job. It was the time that I had to figure out what I really wanted to do for a living. This was not wrapped in some kind of course at the TU Delft… So I thought that strategy consulting was the thing I should do. After struggling with some business cases and, foremost, answering the same kind of questions at various offices, it turned out not the thing for me. Next stop was the corporates; I was in the running for some traineeships and the procedures were long, hundreds of participants for a few free spots and again the same kind of questions at various companies. Then I applied for the function product manager at a few middle/large national companies. It appeared to be marketing functions and this also not totally my thing. Desperately I called Peter and Jelmer from Veeel to become an intern. Immediately I felt at home in the setting of product design and here I am; Veeel’s new strategic designer!
In Delft I became a Master of Science in Strategic Product Design at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. Strategic product design is a relatively new phenomenon in the land of Industrial Design. People can have a stereotypical image of a designer; someone with a black turtleneck sweater and black glasses on, who spends its days drawing shapes, models, humans etc. Off course, you could find those people at the faculty in Delft, but I do not wear glasses. Strategic product design evolves around the conceptual phase of a product. In fact it is the translation of market opportunities and company characteristics into concrete product ideas, which is for me nice combination business analysis and creating new things.
An example of a successful product strategy is the iPod. When this product came to market, MP3 players already existed for a few years. The big difference was the connection between the product and iTunes, so that people easily could download any music without the illegality that is associated with download sites. It appeared that Apple was very skilled in finding market opportunities (easy accessible and legal digital music) and transformed this into concrete products (iTunes and iPod). It makes sense that Apple first made up this strategy and then started developing the iPod. For me it is likely that Apple’s skill in strategic product design was one of the keys to the mega-success the company has now (what about the iPhone and Appstore…).
It is interesting to see how people and companies that come to Veeel for a new product, handle this strategy aspect. We always make clear that it is an important phase for us to go through, however clients find it sometimes hard to see the added value of a thought-through product strategy before we start sketching. I see it as my goal to make product strategy a viable aspect for every assignment we do because I want all our clients to be successful: both on a design and design strategy aspect.