I went to my local hairdresser lately - out of necessity; I rarely go out of my own 'free will'. I generally do not find it relaxing having to sit in a chair for 30-45 min with someone very close that I'm sort of expected to have small talk with. When I was sitting down in the chair and the hairdresser started her job, a small detail caught my attention. This small detail is the source of this blog. The woman about to engage with my hair had a little name tag on with her name in normal and in mirrored print. I loved this as it shows that the person designing this little item was aware of the context of use and of the viewer's situation and needs.

In designing and developing new products and services, essentially new user experiences, these small details indicating a full contextual understanding are essential. In a recent concept development at Cambridge Consultants we used in-home discussions and ethnographic techniques to place the consumer statements in context. For example, one woman we talked to had stated that she provided care to her husband as well as her kids. By visiting her at home we were able to be inside this situation and observed how her normal tasks were regularly being interrupted by moments of care for her husband. Not only did we gain much richer information to be used later in the process, we also were able to see little details that would never have been captured in a normal interview and visual cues for further investigation.

In our approach to concept generation, we acknowledge the importance of translating real consumer insights into relevant, resonating and technically viable ideas. During workshops specifically planned to facilitate the immersion in the context of use, ideas are generated that not only are grounded in insight but also are at the cutting edge of what's technically feasible. At Cambridge Consultants we have a broad range of technical experts that are brought in specifically to both come up with new exciting solutions as well as assure that generated concepts are possible.

Combining three core disciplines, consultants and researchers, designers, and engineers, during this translation assures ideas and concepts will be characterised by good strategic fit, appealing design, and a healthy mix between realism and pushing the envelope on the engineering.


Consumer centred design

As visible in the diagram, the three core disciplines have varying levels of involvement throughout the process, but all are important parts of the team and responsible for realising a relevant, viable and exciting new product or service.

The need for multi-disciplinary collaboration is not only important at the front end of the innovation process, but also in the detailed design and development phases that follow. Having been involved in the original immersions, engineers working on small technical details much later in the development process will be aware of the context and will be able to use this information to guide their decisions. By having all disciplines involved, in different ratios, throughout the full development process, we make sure that valuable insights are carried through, all the way to the final product or service.

As I was sitting in the hairdressers’ chair, I realised that little details count and can make a real difference. Imagine the impact these small details can have in experiences that are much more complex and impactful!

To see more about the way we approach concept development and the benefits this delivers to you, please watch this short video.

Customer-centred design from Cambridge Consultants on Vimeo.

Antonno Versteeg

As a consultant in the Strategy, Innovation and Process team I help executives make the right decisions about their company's innovation, design and product development direction.