Team Interview: Product Design

Team Interview: Product Design

An interview with Robert Drybala, Product Designer at Sensio, ahead of KBB 2020.

Where do you get your inspiration for new products?

Our inspiration for new products comes from many sources including exhibition visits, customer requests or issues and quite often from discussions with fitters. We monitor KBB and electrical market trends and as you’d expect, competitor activity and keep a close eye on technology trends in different markets too which offer inspiration. Some new ideas also come out of our Development and Testing process – we may be developing one product, but it sparks an idea for something quite different.

What’s the design process? What are the main considerations when coming up with a new design for the market?

We have developed our own process and first and foremost, it’s the creation of a business case at the start of the project to identify whether a new product is viable or not. After this the most critical consideration is ensuring that we work with customers throughout the project so they can have their input. There’s no point creating a product that the market doesn’t need or want, nor creating something that isn’t cost effective, so we monitor and review this throughout the process. And finally, to make sure that we adhere to our core value of Keeping Lighting Simple – ensuring that as a business we’re creating simple to manufacture, simple to install and simple to use lighting solutions.

How is technology changing the way they work?

3D Printing is one of our most essential tools, having a desktop 3d printer in our office enables us to rapidly speed up the development process and we would be lost without it. We can model designs and make tweaks and changes before we even get to the point of manufacturing prototypes. This saves us a huge amount of time and cost in the long run.

What design from the KBB market are you most proud of?

The Accent profile that will be launched at the KBB show has to be the one I am most excited about, due to the attention that it received during our VOC (voice of customer) presentations. This profile (which encases a flexible strip light) showcases an innovate method of illuminating corners around worktop edges which has never been seen before in the market.

Accent Plinth Clip Profile – A first of its kind profile to illuminate kitchen plinths. The discreet and innovative design allows the profile to hook over the kitchen plinth board and house a slimline 3.5mm or 5mm flexible strip light offering a flood of diffused light to illuminate the floor at the base of the kitchen units. The design also encompasses illuminated corner connectors eliminating breaks in the light. Launching March 2020

As a designer, how do you balance creativity with commercial needs?

You can’t have one without the other so it’s important that we adhere to our design process – creating a viable business case for the product in the first instance but not feeling constrained or making compromises with what we are trying to achieve. Having close working relationships with our customers and suppliers allows us to find solutions and work round any potential issues so that we always realise our ambition.

How do you rate the general level of design in the kitchen/bathroom industries? Is it cutting edge enough? In your opinion, how design-led are products in that sector? What, if anything, excites you about the industry?

The general level of design in the kitchen/bathroom industries is good but is weighted towards more aesthetic products. The level of technology in lighting is slowly increasing as more products become available, but we are most excited for ‘Smart’ products that can integrate into any home. Smart technology has been available for some time, but it has been very platform dependent and also highly priced. Our focus moving forward is a fully connective strategy at an affordable price.

Looking at the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom industries in general, do you think we're in an interesting time for design or have we reached our peak of creativity? What, if anything, do you think the KBB industry is missing design-wise?

Good design is an ever-changing trend and there are no limits to what designers can create in the modern age. More customisation is a key feature that would benefit everyone in the KBB industry by offering more choice and relevant features.

Will the trend for customisation and individualisation continue to grow?

The trend for customisation and individualism is very likely to grow in the future due to the increasing access consumers have to the internet and other media, which fuels both their, and our creativity in product design.

What is ‘good’ design?

Good design is all in the fine detail. From initial conception, to product use and its efficiency, to the breaking down and recycling of components, every detail of a product has to be considered. Ensuring that at each stage of a products lifespan it offers convenience, simplicity and above all else, an experience unlike any other. That to me, is the definition of ‘good’ product design.

Do you believe you should be able to get ‘good design’ at every budget level?

Yes, ‘Good design’ should be available at all price points and no product should be created without considering this - a price point should be determined at the initial business case. Technology and materials will make certain products more expensive but that doesn’t prohibit good design – it’s about creating a product fit for the market you are targeting which is why our range compromises a good, better, best strategy.

There has been a focus recently on sustainability and ‘eco-friendly’ design. Do you think it’s necessary? Are consumers really bothered? The retailers we speak to say that, in their experience, most consumers are only really bothered about the performance of a product and the overall experience…

I think sustainable design is incredibly important as we have never been more aware of the negative impact we are having on the planet. Whether consumers are really bothered about eco-friendly products or not, I believe all companies have the moral responsibility to try and reduce their impact wherever possible and at Sensio it’s certainly high on our agenda!

Originally printed in KBB Review.

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