Innovative solutions today increasingly address a complex web in which products, services, technologies and user needs are interwoven. This in turn means that innovation is increasingly dependent on agreements within larger groups of stakeholders. This carries an inherent risk of slowing the innovative process down – precisely at the time it needs to speed up in the face of an ever more dynamic and volatile market. Traditional markets are becoming increasingly saturated, educated and brand-wary.
Companies can no longer rely solely on technology breakthroughs and incremental product development. Effective differentiation and real added value for the consumer are achieved by incorporating end-user insights in product innovation. This takes on an added significance when designing solutions for the emerging connected, digitally enabled world.
Products and services are increasingly overlapping, everyday products are more intelligent and adaptive, and the focus is on ‘systems' rather than stand-alone devices. Additionally, user needs are evolving over time. Maintaining simplicity and understanding the user in such a landscape becomes a challenge.
The industry needs a new kind of industrial design because of these developments, and our Industrial Design approach is acting in response to this need.
Ideas for innovation can quickly be hampered by technical limitations, incomplete use of user insights or lack of fit to existing business models.
The need to be connected and the need for the customer to be an integral part of the value chain has forced all leading industrial and political bodies to incorporate human values, needs and desires from the very beginning of the innovation process. Industrial design must be based on a more flexible and collaborative approach than ever before. We need to align the way we innovate across disciplines, creating collaborative platforms to rapidly interconnect design ideas, technology solutions and business models.
Innovation in this climate requires social science, design, engineering and business to be brought together in an interdisciplinary way. Industrial design should simultaneously support and catalyze the contributions of all participants, enabling a collaborative exploration of potential futures that can be translated to each partner's individual perspective. In the Industrial Design Department of TU/e, we are seeking to do just this through research and education. Over the past twenty years design has changed towards being a strategic driver as well as a proactive contributor. Design needs to change still further if it is indeed to fulfill its cultural and strategic purpose; if it is to co-lead and to enrich our cultures; and to respond to the emerging needs of people who need to participate and transform themselves in this globally networked, digitally tooled and content-saturated world.
As society exits the Industrial Age, so the excesses of daily production and consumption patterns are becoming evident. The ‘old-new' way of doing things, based on productivity and more of everything and faster, was based on the metaphor of the machine. Today, the issue is about relevant and meaningful innovation for society, for cultures and for people. The industry is moving up the value chain and needs to create new value propositions.
The Department is striving to establish its own unique vision within the future disciplinary landscape of Industrial Design. Integration of the Design, Engineering and Social Sciences perspectives will enable us to create intelligent systems, products and related services in a societal context based on ‘human values' rather than on the ‘efficiency' criterion that has saturated today's design.