October 04, 2005

Spiderman or Rain Man?

Writing about web page http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/frog-design-mind-128721.php

Intersting Gizmodo piece on product design, comparing the latest offering from Gillette to Alessi's Mr Suicide –

What does this have to do with the Fusion? Itís a perfect example of a product made by a Rain Man company. Rain Man companies are highly data driven, and donít make a move without their tighty-whities being as tight and as white as they can get. You can just see the executives in their conference room sweating the latest metrics. Schick had captured the high ground with four razors, putting Gilletteís Mach 3, the Cadillac of razors, into has-been land. The data didnít lie: if three is good, four is better, five must be even betterer. Onward and upward!
Products made by Spider-Man companies are quite different. They have a personality, an unexpected flavor to them that immediately engages you. Mr. Suicide is a perfect example. Can you imagine Gillette having the guts to bring out something so quirky? Nope, not gonna happen.

It's worth noting that the Alessi website emphasises the designer alongside the product – you can search for a particular designers work, not just things for your kitchen.

Do people want cutting edge design from Gillette? I guess most people want a decent shave first, good design second. Do I need a quirky razor? Alessi however uses design as a distinct selling point, so it is imperative that it's designers push the envelope.

I think the author is too dismissive of object function in preference for innovative design. I want an razor that gives me a good shave. If 5 blades does that then fine. I will balance function, cost and design in making a decision. I am not sure that Mr Suicide represents signifcant new steps in bath plug design, other than a fun and funky design that would appeal to a small group of design conscious people.

However, that is not to say that the spiderman approach is foolish – indeed, innovation in design is imperative and a driver of significant change – the iPod for example. But where the iPod wins is in both design and function, backed up by some of the most numbers savvy marketing and product development you are likely to see. Cool needs to be backed with very good numbers if it is to succeed.

Mr Suicide is very cool though…

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