NEXT16: How to design products people love

How do you build greta product that really connect with people emotionally? You have to challenge how you think about design and its role in product development.

Warning: Liveblogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and terrible crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be updated over the next 48 hours.


Moderator: Jeremy Abbett, Google

  • Jason Cale, Facebook
  • Martin Oberhäuser, Bureau Oberhäuser
  • Lisa Lang, ElektroCouture
  • Golden Krishna, Google

Design is not how it looks, but how it works. Design is solving problems – and the beauty is a side effect. Design is being intentional, and finding elegant solutions. Design is about empathy. Thats what the panel thought about design. And here’s their detail:

Service-centric approaches

Lisa Lang

LL: It’s a sense of service. You’re not just making a thing, you’re addressing needs. I’ve never owned a car because I’ve never needed one. I have had a dozen car sharing services and a bike. You either understand consumer needs or you die. And there’s opportunities for established businesses as well as crazy new companies to establish new service layers. Highly successful companies are service focused.

MO: To stay successful you need to think outside the box, and look around the product that you’ve made for the last 100 years. That’s the challenges for the existing car manufacturers. Why will succeed? The future will show.

GK: What most industrial designers are trying to do is build up the brand. Now, people are talking about customers. That’s a different perspective than we’re used to. Brand emerges over time, but the first priority is customer need.


MO: They never had to come up with demand – they always had it. But now they’re facing a new world where they need a new solution.

LL: Fashion is very similar – we’ve been used to the fashion designers telling us what we should wear. But with the internet people can find anything, and buy it or make it. And so the big designers are having to embrace customisation by the customer. The old industry is running out of time and money.

Designing for impact


JC: As a designer or an engineer, you need to get out of the way and understand the impact you have. At Facebook we care about impact. It’s about understanding how the platform can serve other people. That’s where you can provide real value.

GK: But we have design teams headed up by people with computer science degrees, but you never see arts graduates leading engineering team. From a larger industry perspective, there’s that going on. And from an individual perspective, working in a large place, you always have to be very, very aggressive about fighting battles for design. You’ll lose some of those battles – but not all of them.


MO: Side projects are useful, because you control all of them. When you do your own thing, you’re completely in control of it, and there’s no filter between the client and you. That can be painful – but it’s useful. It’s almost like having a baby. You’re putting something out in the world, and you have to care for it. Its success feels better – it it succeeds.

LL: We do have a technologist with an art degree in our company. Also, our technologists are called creative technologists. Everyone needs to be able to work with sewing machines and microchips. However, we can be as creative as we want to be – but at the end of the day, we need to make money.

MO: I think the lack of arts graduates leading engineering teams will change. More and more companies understand that design is not just making things pretty at the end. I couldn’t lead an engineering team, but I could among them.