Design as a differentiator
A Philips case study

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Page 2: Starting the design process

Philips 5 Image 4Marzano approached senior managers in the two organisations with his idea of working together and was pleased to receive a positive response. Philips saw the benefits of repositioning its products in a more up-market segment, while Alessi was already considering the possibility of extending the company’s range of materials into plastics and moving into a larger market.

The first practical step was a week-long workshop. From the start, the products were developed in a multi-disciplinary way, i.e. by involving a range of specialists working together. Philips designers worked with experts from various fields - marketing, product management, engineering and ergonomics.

The group analysed the existing ‘state of art’ in the kitchen environment and set out a statement of how things could be developed, under the heading ‘re-humanising the kitchen’. This stated that during the 20th century, the kitchen has become something of an impersonal food factory, devoid of emotion, creativity and even flavour. Clinically white appliances, though helpful, were often noisy. The emphasis was on speed of food preparation. The fully automated kitchen had become a place where one spent as little time as possible. Life today is an accelerating rush and we need to find time for moments of calmness and serenity.

It is time to renew traditional values of creativity and sociability. What better place for this than the kitchen, and what better time than meal times?  There are signs that people value family life, eating together and enjoying good food in each other’s company. However, it is not a question of simply turning the clock back. We want the virtues of the traditional kitchen without the burdens it imposed.

The answer is to develop modern kitchen tools which are more congruent with, or similar to, the age-old culture of cuisine, gastronomy and mealtime socialisation. Two aspects were examined in greater depth:

  • Domestic ritual – although many people want to prepare food quickly, they also like to be involved in mealtime rituals from time to time (e.g. Sunday breakfast and barbecues).  Whereas food preparation was traditionally carried out by the housewife, increasingly today it is a joint ritual by equal partners.
  • Core functionality - many of today’s products are over-elaborate gadgets which users are unable to master. It would make sense to simplify these products to meet essential requirements. The team was also able to appreciate the advantages of combining form and function.

Mass production manufacturers like Philips had concentrated on design as a tool to help satisfy people’s practical needs. Small Italian design factories like Alessi tended to see design as a way of fulfilling people’s dreams. Experimentation was needed at the border between these two to identify what was termed ‘the creative possible’.

Philips | Design as a differentiator