COMING UP FAST: Define your product as you design it

COMING UP FAST: Define your product as you design it - These days, designers don't just make a product look nice - they decide what it is in the first place. Rhymer Rigby visits PDD, a radical example of how a design firm can spearhead innovation.

by Rhymer Rigby

These days, designers don't just make a product look nice - they decide what it is in the first place. Rhymer Rigby visits PDD, a radical example of how a design firm can spearhead innovation.

Every bit of video that comes back is the same, says Paul Pankhurst. 'They're on their hands and knees. The whole bloody population is on its hands and knees.' Lest you get the wrong idea, we are talking about washing machine design and the problems associated with the traditional front loader. The video footage in question is part of how PDD approaches the design of a new washing machine - or indeed any other product.

Rather than just looking at a machine and saying: 'Let's shove an extra couple of knobs on here and add an extra spin cycle' (which, research suggests, is unlikely ever to be used anyway), the company sends its psychologists to live with users for a week or so. They watch and video consumers interacting with their machines, and after a while the users (a la Big Brother) forget about the cameras.

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