Feb 2, 2016

interloft.com 2016

New year, new website, right?  It took a couple weeks more than expected, but we are really happy to announce that Interloft's new website is live now. Please visit it, we hope you find it useful.  We worked really hard to design a visual, user-friendly platform that communicates what Interloft can do to help companies provide impactful experiences to their clients.

In this blog,we will regularly post news and articles that explore our area of expertise. That is, the product design and development process, how to create impactful products for your clients, and interesting anecdotes on the journey an idea can take before it is wrapped and packed and ready for shipping!

We are always seeking to spark conversations that can go beyond our area of influence.

Interloft LLC is dedicated to providing product design, development and manufacturing solutions that are commercially successful and tailored to our client's business strategy. You can find out more at interloft.com. We are located in the Greater Los Angeles Area, in California, USA.

Thank you for stopping by, happy reading!

Oct 29, 2013

Renovation of Industrial Design as a Discipline

Truly functional products should fulfill a list of experiences that range from the physical to the psychological. To achieve this, there are specialists who focus on maximizing every aspect of the interaction we have with the new product, thus making sure that the user gets the maximum possible gratification for what he/she has paid.

For industrial designers, ergonomics and user interface have traditionally been restricted to the mechanical interaction with products. Said in another way, user interface limited to tangible aspects.

For decades, designers have mastered that of the user experiences. They add lines, arrows, comfortable or uncomfortable textures, etc., whatever it takes to communicate whether you should, should not, or even how to use a product. A fundamental word here is precisely, communication. Products communicate with users, and our product should communicate its functions in the most simplified and complete manner.

Around a year ago, the news that Jonathan Ive, Apple Inc's current Industrial Design VP would include one more responsibility to his already hefty position got all the headlines, becoming now in the company's leader of Human Interface, with the responsibility to coordinate both physical and software design.

Jonathan Ive
(Image taken from Apple.com)
The news was received with a lot of interest, especially because of the anticipated -now unveiled- renovation of iOS, and writers and blogger around the world saw it as the triumph of the “designer” over the “coder”. Personally, I don’t think this is a a matter of profession, but of aptitudes.

Let’s leave Apple’s internal affairs for them and focus on the big picture. It has been a few years now that Jony Ive became one of the most successful and influential trendsetters in the world. It is interesting then, to learn that Jony himself declared he was a bit scared of computers, and as far as we know, he might lack programming skills. His abilities lay in the ability to create communication processes between products and users. And if he has managed to do that in such a superb way with physical objects, I think we should expect more amazing thing in his future digital interfaces.

Another success story: Tim Brown and his prestigious studio IDEO have become famous not only for their outstanding and innovative design, but more importantly, for creating communication processes that go far beyond physical products to include services and experiences, innovating in areas such as banking, hospitality, medical services, and assistance for the developing world.
Tim Brown
(Image taken from IDEO.com)

Starting to see a pattern?

Industrial design and industrial design education are now in the verge of a radical change. Universities have the responsibility to see the industry not only for the next 20 years, but for the next 3 or 5. What will happen in 5 years? For example, how many smartphones, its accessories and apps will be invented, exponentially used, and then become obsolete before a regular 4-year university term?

But that is not the only thing. It is necessary to identify where the new added value and innovation will found be in products, so that design studios can project accordingly. What intangible functions will add value to products for the coming generations of consumers? What is only cosmetic, and what is true ergonomics, interaction, feedback? 

And, a necessary question: Where in this value equation will design and designers contribute? Are industrial designers prepared? At interloft we have worked on a lot of projects in plastic injection, aluminum, metal, electronics, and there is no field that ever stops innovating. Electronic projects made in 2008 have now a cheaper, more complete alternative. Even cables transport more information than they used to a few years ago. It is up to designers and academics not only to keep up, but to innovate where value is sought after. One out of the many approaches is the internet of things. Medical equipment. Many more are out there for us, ready to be found.

May 14, 2013

Product Design Contest

Last week, BetterWare invited me to hand in the prizes of the BetterWare Product Design Contest, to the Industrial Design students of Tec de Monterrey, Mexico City Campus. Tec de Monterrey is one of the most prestigious private universities in Mexico. The event was part of Tec's "HiperEntrega", where architecture, engineering and design students showcase their end of semester projects.

Picture credit: Juan Manuel Luna

It was a great experience, and it was really interesting to see the student's projects and developments. A lot of material (over 30 products) with great quality. 

I had to talk to a huge crowd of students, university authorities and design celebrities. I have presented in front of large crowds before, but nevertheless you can't help being a little nervous. 

I met Antonio Pérez Iragorri, editor of the renown design Magazine A! Diseño. He published pics of the event in the magazine's FB page.

It was a great evening!

Mar 7, 2012

Disruptive innovation or conservative approach?

What happens when you have a great product idea that want to develop, but it's a little different from what people are used to? You can either develop it to make it stand out of the crowd instantly, or you can make it look like a regular product with additive features.

Today, we'll talk about two situations that we often see with our clients that will help you identify when it is better to apply disruptive innovation, or to rather use a more conservative approach.

Disruptive innovation
Picture taken from Mercadofilia.com
We humans are creatures of habits. After we find something that makes our life easier and more comfortable, we like to keep it that way even if a better choice appears. We often prefer to avoid investing  our time on learning curves, and stick to the known. Later, we wait for early adopters to switch to the new alternative, try it, give us feedback, and only then we'll invest some time on understanding and implementation. It happens with cars, school systems, banks, and pretty much everything around us. For decades, Mexicans were comfortable with traditional grocery stores ran by local community members, and when convenience stores like OXXO appeared, it took some time for them to take off, especially in small cities.

The same happens with products for everyday use. If we are going to develop a really innovative, disruptive concept, we have to make sure of a number of things before launching it:
  1. We have to be crystal clear about new features and functions, making them particularly easy to identify and understand by users, even without using the product itself.
  2. That we are able to supply the product or service whenever our potential client has decided he/she wants to try it.
Regardless of how much we love our product's new features, they have to be "readable" to the audience. They have to feel able to use them. The harder the features are to understand, the closer identification our clients must have to our brand. Otherwise, they'll just move to the simpler neighbor. 

Microsoft developed touch screen interfaces
long  before Apple, but its conservative
approach created an opportunity for the iPad

(Picture from notebook-driver.com)
Conservative approach 
Here's a little story: during the development of a product for one of our clients, they suggested that instead of investing upfront a substantial amount of money, we should make a cheaper version of the product, with limited functions and cheaper materials. If the product sold well, it would then be ready for a bigger investment. Are they planning an appropriate test-drive for the audience?

Such approach minimizes risks indeed. However, in today's competitive markets it poses a couple serious disadvantages: 
  1. It lets our competitors see exactly what we're doing, and since that product is a limited version of the definitive one, the window of opportunity is open for them to introduce a newer product with the improvements we planned for further releases.
  2. It settles customers' mindset on a cheaper, simpler product, making it difficult to introduce the improved versions that usually carry a higher price tag.

There are no simple answers or quick shortcuts when it comes to deciding features for our products. User surveys provide useful information, but they show only a small part of the picture. At interloft we always apply strategic planning for products, foreseeing possible contexts and putting special emphasize on  user interface.

We hope next time you need to implement innovation on products or services, these questions offer some guidelines for your product strategy road map.

Jan 16, 2012

Developing product functions

Marketing theory states that when people get products or services, they don't actually want them as such. What they want -desire- is to fulfill one or several needs, and the chosen products or services provide the means to do that in the most efficient or preferred way.

If your company is planning to launch a new product or redesign an existing one, user feedback is crucial, but another really important step to improve user experience and product quality is to ask ourselves the further steps people take with our products:
Image taken from joecool.org

- What levels of satisfaction do users expect from using our or any other similar product? 
- What spaces, tasks and other products interact or are within the proximity while performing the activity our product provides?

This has proven for us to be a great product enhancer. Of course, charging a product with excessive abilities would result in a complicated interface that users will find overwhelming. A good example are 90's remote controls, when TV's and VCR's started to have more functions they became utterly complex. A phone is not valuable just because it's sleek and useful. It also has a great OS, customer support or custom rubber protections.

At Interloft we take every project with an analog approach. We do not treat them just as products, but we see them instead as a -critical- part of a system. When a user interacts with a product, he/she creates sequences around it. How can we make these sequences swifter?  From a high-end computer to simple kitchenware, it is always important to imagine where and how it will be used, and what are the possible circumstances and contexts that surround it.

We hope you find this useful.