When experience and physics merge

Holistic, integrated product development – what does that mean? Well, if you want to be successful today and tomorrow, if you want to be innovative and competitive, then it will be too slow, inefficient and irrelevant to first develop a physical functionality and then try to powder on some experience values. You will need to start with the experience, the user value, and engineer your offering from that. In a mixed team!

Let’s take cars as an example. The car industry is interesting as the development has come so far in this sense, because of tough competition and expensive products. I have heard that Rolls Royce did not deliver complete cars until after the Second World War. Up to then, for forty years, they made ”rolling chassis”, that is four wheels, frame, engine with drive train, steering wheel and the famous radiator grille with it’s little sculpture on top. Their focus was to deliver the best performing and reliable car available, a car that would never break down and that would always start. That was their ”core business”. Experience values, apart from driving performance, such as seats, doors, wood panels etc, was provided by other companies, coachbuilders. Wood, leather, looks, was their ”core business”.

Until the 60’s most cars were made this way: a basic structure that actually could be driven by itself if you would strap a kitchen chair to it, onto which the body and interior was bolted on. Engineers would develop the mechanics, and designers would then add the body and interior. A linear work process where function mainly was a mechanical question, separated from the exterior experience.

When car production went large scale, more industrial methods were needed. It would be to expensive, and slow in production, to first build a chassis and then add the body. The monocoque construction was developed, which means that there is no frame but the body supports itself. Cleverly profiled sheets of metal on the inside make the structure together with the exterior panels. Suddenly those in charge of structure and those in charge of experience would need to collaborate as they would be working on the same pieces.

That is the way most cars are produced today. Designers and engineers collaborate, and by setting a common vision at the beginning of development, there will be fewer conflicts, less errors and more synergy.

So today, when you develop a new car, you start with the user and the experience. What values and practical needs does our target group have? How can we support that? Can we support their needs and lifestyle with other things than cars? From that vision, mechanical and production engineers, industrial designers, graphic designers and even sound and smell designers collaborate to support the experience.

Compared to the traditional model this way of working is ”backwards”, just like backwards pricing. But it’s the only way forward!

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