This interview is for the sensible person who understands that life is short and so our energies have to be focused on projects that will work. It’s a shame how a lot of people end up feeling content with failed projects as “good learning experiences” when the best option is to learn and succeed at the same time. In this goldmine of an interview, I talk with a prominent innovation and design consultant named Brett Newman… a man who has a lot to bring to the table. I believe the most essential part of his message is how his San Francisco based firm, Daylight Design, can consistently create commercially successful products using a special process called “design thinking”. He shows that by closely adhering to this process, he’s able to help companies initiate successful product launches, even before the products are conceived. To learn about this specialized approach for making any product a commercial success, be sure to check out the video below.
Whether you’re an inventor, an author or a school curriculum planner, your continued success really relies on how well you adhere to the concept of design thinking. It’s a way of being able to forecast what the weather of industry will be in the future so you can fit the climate with the right product. The more fine tuned your method of design thinking is, the more chance you have of success.
To understand how diverse the application of design thinking can be, it would be helpful to know that it even works with improving communities. In one municipal project, Daylight Design had a very central role in helping a city improve the “well-being factor” of its residents.
During the second part of the interview we switch gears to talk about a subject that I’ve always been intrigued with which is plastic manufacturing. Plastic products are a central part of our culture, but it’s rare to meet someone who’s actually designed one because of the lack of knowledge and resources. With the advent of new prototyping technology, plastic manufacturing is available to anyone with a dream.
Below you can see the team of Daylight Design discussing my newest hybrid product, a Pez candy dispenser / cigarette lighter. No, just kidding… They’re really discussing the design details of the Logitech TV Cam, a project that helped them win a much coveted international award for sleek and innovative design.
Excerpt of interview on design thinking
Dan: Today we’re talking with Brett Newman, cofounder of an innovation and design consultancy called Daylight Design based in San Francisco, California. His company is very keen on using a concept called “design thinking” which helps his clients understand the real market landscapes for their product launches, even before their products are designed. And I’m so happy to have him on the show with me right now. So without any further preamble, Brett, thanks so much for coming on with us today.
Brett: Thank you very much for having me on, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Dan: So Brett, I guess you’re kind of like a weatherman in the area of design using your system of design thinking. Can you give us a closer look as to what this actually is?
Brett: Sure, design thinking is simply a process of finding inspiration in users to do great design and a process of getting stuff out there so you can learn from users, learn from feedback, iterating so you end up with successful product.
Dan: I heard an amazing testimony about how you used design thinking with a product called The Zamzee. It’s a toy-like activity meter that kids wear or put in their pockets to fight obesity. Studies have shown that when kids use it, the amount of exercise goes up 59% and statistically when kids keep their weight under control, their grades go up so this product has me really intrigued.
Brett: That’s right we had a wonderful opportunity to work with a group here in California called Hopelab. And they came to us with an idea around using an activity monitor to reward kids and incentivise them to do more exercise. The original idea revolved around an mp3 player that would give kids songs based on how much they moved. And we thought that was a great I idea. But we thought we would be really well served by stepping back and understanding if this was in fact the right idea for addressing the challenge. And to step back to understand if we were asking the right questions and offering the right solution, we used this process of design thinking where we went to the field. We met with kids and teachers and parents all across America. And we talked with them about their habits, their likes, their dislikes, their passions, the things that made them frustrated… We wanted to understand who they were as people so we could best design a product that would resonate with their needs. And it turns out that the idea of an mp3 player had some significant challenges. For one, no kids want product that’s not an ipod, no kid wants something that’s not Apple. Another thing is it turns that mp3 players are not allowed be worn in schools so there was a large window of activity that the meter would not track. And we learned that kids wanted to compete and interact and engage with one another. And they were less worried about tracking their activity history as an adult might be. They wanted to compete with their friends and say, “Hey look what I did, can you you do better?” And so we ended up building a social, virtual platform that allowed kids to record their accomplishments and allowed kids to compete with others who also used the Zamzee.
Dan: Brett I know that your company has its own detailed way of addressing the concept of design thinking with your clients, but can you give us a dumbed down version for our audience using a typical scenario. Let’s just say there’s an author who has a really great idea for an ebook that will be uploaded into the Amazon Kindle store. Can you recommend one piece of advice that would be essential before creating and uploading the ebook?
Brett: That’s a great question. It’s a fun way to apply design thinking and the reality of design thinking is that it can be applied anywhere. In the case of uploading this book maybe you can test out your ideas rather than putting all your eggs in one basket and working really hard until the bitter end and then doing a really big release. The way to do it, we believe, is to put something out there… a small thing… an experiment. See what works, see what doesn’t and then use that experiment to build off of and iterate and do another experiment that is in fact leveraging the winds from the previous experiment and adding new things. And through that iterative approach the chances of landing on a successful combination of tactics to get this book out into the world is much much higher than if you try to do it all on your own without learning from you environment and without prototyping and evolving it.
Dan: That makes sense to me. Why take 2 years to write a novel without finding what the profitable categories are? It’s sad that most fledgling authors fail the first time because they don’t target the right audience. So writing a couple ebooks in different categories definitely makes sense. And to add to that, why not talk to somebody who truly makes big money as a self-publish author? The information collected in that kind of conversation could save a lot of time.