The cultural zeitgeist starts here...
Seymourpowell report back from the Milan Furniture Fair





EVENTS AND COLLABORATIONS What’s been driving us.


RECENT LAUNCHES What we’ve been up to.


ARTICLES What we think.




OUT AND ABOUT Where we’ve been.

KEVIN JOHNSON Creative Director PAUL FOULKES-ARELLANO Client Services Director VERONICA HILL Studio and People Manager We’ve had a key presence at several conferences this year including Wired magazine’s inaugural conference - Wired 2011, World Innovation Convention, TEDSalon, TEDXOxbridge, PACE - the Packaging and Converting Executive Forum and the Economist UK Energy Summit. We hosted a trends talk at the London Design Museum where Mariel Brown and Karen Rosenkranz from our Research,Trends and Strategy team took a wide-angle look at the highlights of the Milan Fair 2011. We were proud to unveil a special exhibition at the V&A to celebrate over a year of collaboration between Seymourpowell and the V&A schools team. The V&A Schools team partnered up with Seymourpowell last year to devise ‘Design Pro’, a workshop that introduced professional design practice in the area of product design taking inspiration from the V&A collections. More recently we teamed up with the D&T Association to lead a campaign to promote Design and Technology education. The campaign film included thoughts from Sir Paul Smith, Sir James Dyson, Sir John Rose, David Kester and Deyan Sudjic.

If you have any questions or comments about anything in the newsletter please contact: Nichola Rinks - New Business Tim Duncan - PR

TED is a nonprofit organisation devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ that believes passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.
TED conferences offer free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community for curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. On Wednesday 18th May at the Unicorn Theatre, London, Richard Seymour took to the stage at the Spring TED Salon. Speaking on the subject of intrinsic and extrinsic beauty, Richard touched on the complex system of ideas that hit our brain before cognition, discussed the millisecond first-impression, and explored how a designer can approach this challenge. Richard’s talk is available to watch on Richard Seymour also delivered a talk at TEDxOxbridge at Saïd Business School, Oxford University on 4th June. As a collaboration between Oxford’s Saïd Business School and Cambridge’s Judge Business School, TEDxOxbridge attempts to unpack business in the 21st Century to reveal new realms of possibility and deeper connections for societal transformation through the conduct of “Business as Unusual”. “The greatest thing about TED for me is meeting the OTHER TEDsters. Enquiring minds, most at the absolute top of their game. It’s a banquet of brilliance... give me more!” RICHARD SEYMOUR Co-Founder, Seymourpowell

In 2010 Seymourpowell announced a new partnership with the V&A Schools team, bringing their expertise and cutting-edge design knowledge to the 2010 - 2011 academic programme. The collaboration between Seymourpowell and one of the world’s greatest museums of art and design helped give students and teachers access to a unique perspective on design through specially devised workshops and events, aimed at inspiring a new generation of world-class designers.
The V&A Schools programme for Secondary Design & Technology students and teachers, DesignLab, provides inspirational and innovative learning through real-life insights into the creative industries. During 2010 -11 this was provided by Seymourpowell, who share the V&A’s desire to inspire and excite students and teachers of Design & Technology in fresh and unique ways. The sessions challenged students to solve a design brief through methods used by Seymourpowell designers in their day-to-day practice. This included techniques such as ethnographic studies, product analysis, trend-forecasting and 3-D prototyping. David Fisher, Design Director at Seymourpowell, commented: “My attitude to design through the work I do at Seymourpowell is to approach problems as broadly as possible (through research and testing ideas), then narrow down as quickly as possible (by prioritising the key issues) – to find answers in the most objective way I can. It’s a process, and one that I think we should share with young people to show ways of solving problems, not just for design, but for all aspects of business.”

To celebrate over a year of collaboration between Seymourpowell and the V&A, a special exhibition was created in the museum’s Sackler Centre. The exhibition showcased work from the V&A ‘DesignPro’ project, from both pupils and members of the Seymourpowell team as well as video content from past workshops and interviews with Seymourpowell.

Images courtesy of: V&A




Business leaders unite to promote Design and Technology education as key to the future of Creative Britain.
4 5 6 Those taking part in the campaign film included: 1 IAN CALLUM Design Director, Jaguar 2 DICK POWELL Co-Founder and Design Director, Seymourpowell 3 DAVID KESTER Chief Executive, Design Council 4 SIR JAMES DYSON Founder, Dyson and James Dyson Foundation 5 DEYAN SUDJIC Design Museum Director 6 SIR JOHN ROSE Former Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce 7 8 9 7 RICHARD SEYMOUR Co-Founder and Design Director, Seymourpowell 8 SIR PAUL SMITH Fashion Designer 9 PAUL JACKSON Chief Executive, Engineering UK Seymourpowell, in partnership with the Design and Technology Association and the James Dyson Foundation, recently launched a campaign film to promote the importance of Design and Technology education, featuring contributions from leading figures from across business and industry. The film promotes the importance of Design and Technology education in Britain’s schools and universities, its contribution to successful business, and its fundamental role in supporting the UK Economy. The film launch followed on from a special event on the same subject, which was held on Tuesday 12th July at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Westminster. On a panel chaired by Design Museum Director Deyan Sudjic, speakers at the event included: Dame Ellen MacArthur Dick Powell Ajaz Ahmed (Founder, AKQA) Paul Jackson (EngineeringUK) Mandy Haberman (Inventor) Key topic areas discussed by the panel at the event included the National Curriculum review, currently being undertaken, and its potential impact on D&T teaching – many fear the subject could potentially be removed as a compulsory subject for all pupils from age 5 to 14. Also discussed by the panel was the impact of cuts in higher education for non-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects from across the creative sector. Another issue raised was the English Baccalaureate and the view held by many in the creative and manufacturing industries that it is already skewing the curriculum in many schools away from creative and technical subjects towards traditional, academic subjects. Speaking at the event, Dick Powell stated that: “The soft introduction of the EBac is another blow on the wedge that is being driven into the UK’s education system, conceived to split out traditional academic subjects as somehow more worthy and important for our children a view incidentally held by many teachers, too often institutionalised academics themselves. If this move isn’t stopped in its tracks, we will see the almost complete dislocation of theory from practise and a return to 1950’s education values.

To watch the campaign film, visit our YouTube channel at the following link:

For more information on how to support the campaign, please visit: To listen to a recording of the panel discusssion, visit our YouTube please visit:

People forget that the UK has a world class creative industries sector which, last time it was measured in 2007, accounted for 4.5% of national exports totalling £16.6 billion and employing some 2m people. Between 1997 and 2008, the sector grew an average of 2% per annum, compared to 1% per annum for the economy as a whole. The big percentage of people in those industries will have studied Art and/or Design and Techology in addition to academic studies and, thanks to that, would have gone into higher education to continue their studies in a creative subject. On the one hand, government talks of ‘creative’ Britain and the ‘innovation’ imperative, while on the other hand it is considering the emasculation of the very system which made it possible and is required to sustain it.

In seeking to review the school curriculum and evaluate the English Baccalaureate, there is a serious and growing risk that they will throw the innovation baby out with the educational bathwater.” The D&T Association have since taken the campaign to the House of Commons where a group chaired by Sir Kevin Tebbit, Chairman of Finmeccanica UK plans to make the case for the retention of Design and Technology to the Department of Education and enlist the support of businesses across the UK.

In collaboration with curatorial collective The Concept Lounge, Seymourpowell ran a series of workshops at the London Design Festival 2011 at the Gallery in Redchurch Street, E2.
This collaboration made up part of a programme entitled Ideas Generator, an interactive set of events including workshops, discussions and practical sessions on 20, 21 and 22 September. During each workshop, members of the Seymourpowell team and talented new designers imagined a future where reality has changed. Seymourpowell used their distinctive research and design process to explore the implications and possibility of a future where energy consumption was strictly rationed. Included in each session was an introduction to the Seymourpowell design process and practical sessions on trends, ethnography, ideas generation and concept development. On Friday 23rd September, visitors to The Concept Lounge were able to view some of the best work from the three workshops. The workshops were featured in the Icon Design Trail guide 2011, a highly influential guide, featuring only the best events and shows for London Design Festival: Visit this link to see photo highlights from the workshop sessions:

“I would like to thank you for hosting such a highly creative event, and giving designers from other industries and students such as myself the opportunity to get involved in the Seymourpowell design process. It was very useful for me and there was a lot that I could take away from it. It also served as a good platform to meet various people in the design industry”. ASHWIN THIRUMURTHY Designer “Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed the Ideas Generator workshop with Seymourpowell. There were some great ideas and I was able to take away one or two things regarding process that I will be using in my own work. My thanks for a great evening”. PETER WONG Product development engineer

On Wed 20th April, Seymourpowell hosted a media event, ‘Milan in Perspective’ at the Design Museum, London’s museum of international and contemporary design in Shad Thames. Following the success of their 2010 Milan report, Seymourpowell were keen to step it up a notch and create an event around their findings from this years’ trip. The result, ‘Milan in Perspective’ - a talk hosted by Mariel Brown and Karen Rosenkranz from Seymourpowell’s Research, Trends and Strategy team. Karen and Mariel took a wide-angle look at the highlights of Milan 2011 to explore the broader relationships between cutting-edge design and the cultural trends which surround them. Covering themes as diverse as new mythology, sense and tactility, restrained luxury and choreographed creation, the event offered a unique and insightful perspective on this year’s fair. As a result, the report was featured in top design publications including FX, Newdesign, Designer and Commercial Interior Designer, as well as numerous influential design blogs.

“For designers and trend researchers alike, all roads lead to Milan. A lighthouse which illuminates the future of design, Milan is both geographically and aesthetically the centre of the emerging design universe; the cultural zeitgeist starts here first”
Richard Seymour

For more information about Seymourpowell’s trends offering, please contact: Mariel Brown For a copy of the Milan report with image library please contact: Tim Duncan

For designers and trend researchers alike all roads lead to Milan

Seymourpowell is pleased to announce details of its design work for CyDen iPulse on the new Smooth Skin PLUS currently retailing in Boots stores nationwide.

doing at Seymourpowell - taking a genuinely innovative technology and embodying it in a product that meets the needs and desires of the user as well as of the business. We spent a lot of time trying to understand how users interacted with the previous generation product by carrying out ethnographic research that uncovered key insights. These insights allowed us to develop the next generation product with fundamental ergonomic improvements. We spent a lot of time in our workshop developing and refining prototypes

of the handset. We also worked closely with CyDen’s engineering team to deliver the final product to the market. Overall it was a great team effort and rewarding to work on such a genuinely useful product that delivers on its promise in an intuitive and elegant way”. As a result of the in-depth ethnographic research carried out by Seymourpowell’s design team of the first generation ‘Smooth Skin’ device, the new ‘Smooth Skin PLUS’ unit is fundamentally more ergonomic than the original first generation device.

Seymourpowell has designed a new handset for the ‘Smooth Skin PLUS’ from Cyden iPulse, the permanent body hair reduction system (retails exclusively through Boots, as ‘Boots Smooth Skin PLUS’). Seymourpowell worked with the team at CyDen Ltd, a British beauty and health company specialising in the application of light in-home beauty treatments that developed state of the art iPulse technology, to design the handset and help refine the base unit. Seymourpowell was tasked with creating a new generation light therapy product for hair removal, based on the first generation technology, to launch in Boots. The aim was to further drive the category growth in light based hair removal by inspiring ‘desire, confidence and ease of use’ with the beauty-involved consumer. The device was also to be positioned within the face care and body care categories, as a more premium product than the first generation device.

The main objective of the brief was to explore insights relating to how consumers used the first generation iPulse device as a permanent hair reduction system. Another element was to explore the world of light based therapy for skin in the salon/ spa context, to uncover insights that could inform and inspire the new product’s design. Seymourpowell considered factors such as ergonomics, storage, the length of the cable, buttons, lighting, volume and navigation on the interface, value and general consumer appeal. Seymourpowell wanted to ensure that the new design was perceived as a premium beauty device with visual language that evoked the ideas of luxury, spas and pampering. Matthew Cockerill, Associate Design Director at Seymourpowell, explains the challenges and results that the team faced during the design process: “This is the kind of project we love

In May earlier this year, Seymourpowell announced details of its 2D and 3D design for The Little Devil - the playful vibrator ring for Durex ‘Play’.
The Little Devil is the very latest in a line of designs for Durex ‘Play’ by Seymourpowell, marking a long-standing relationship with the brand. Back in 2003, Durex approached Seymourpowell to design a range of beautiful vibrators with high design values for the ‘Play’ range that had to be alluring, safe, effective, reliable and tactile, as well as meet users’ desires and expectations. Through the design of Wand, Little Gem, and Charm (see opposite page), Seymourpowell helped Durex carve out a sexual wellbeing category and destination for sex-related products in-store. As part of the brief for Little Devil, Seymourpowell was tasked with designing a new playful vibrator ring that complimented the existing Durex ‘Play’ range, echoing a sense of accessibility, fun and pleasure for everybody. Sebastian Rusu, brand manager at Durex added: “Little Devil is a great innovation and a perfect addition to the Durex ‘Play’ range building up on the success of our Vibrating Ring. It’s a cheeky and playful adult toy for moments when you really want to have fun, adding more spice, variety and excitement into your sex life. We want to inspire our consumers to improve their overall wellbeing, enjoy and love the sex they have, and Seymourpowell is a great partner to help us bring this mission to life.”




1. WAND 2. LITTLE GEM 3. CHARM Seymourpowell continues to work closely with Durex and hopes to develop more exciting additions for the Durex ‘Play’ range in the future.

Seymourpowell is pleased to announce details of its design work on an advanced domestic drinking water appliance for Israeli company, Strauss Water
Strauss Water approached Seymourpowell back in 2009 to design a premium domestic drinking water appliance, initially for the Chinese market, that would utilise Strauss Water’s breakthrough purification technology. Seymourpowell was tasked with implementing Strauss Water’s unique gravity based filtration system, ‘the Hero’, into the heart of the unit with all the internal components fitted around it. ‘The Hero’ is designed to remove impurities whilst keeping healthy minerals without the need for ultra violet lamps. Together with Strauss engineers, Seymourpowell developed an automated tray, which ejects and tilts to allow for the cartridge to be loaded and replaced easily. Seymourpowell had to design for Strauss Water’s advanced cooling and heating technology to be contained in a compact design with a low carbon footprint. This technology allows water to be cooled to 6 degrees and heated up to 96 degrees rapidly. In order to reduce the visual bulk of the product, Seymourpowell reduced the amount of plastic at each side producing a ‘waist’ as a reference to the filtering technology. The upper tank has been left transparent in order to highlight the water within the unit, with the control panel seemingly floating from the tensioned infinity style top. Seymourpowell was also tasked with creating the full user interface, which intuitively allows all family members to dispense the exact volume and temperature of water that they require. Advanced set up functions offer complete customisation including a unique “Baby Formula” feature, which allows the user to dispense water at the recommended temperature in the correct bottle volumes for formula preparation. The additional “My Water” feature also allows other family members to have fast access to their preferred preset. The “WaterMaker” can be plumbed-in directly from the mains, or water can be dispensed from a localised tray situated at the top of the device, which can be topped up when required. The “WaterMaker” has been successfully launched in 100 stores in major cities across China. The brand campaign carries the tag line: ‘live up to the new standard’ which alludes to the insight that until very recently, people had to compromise on their drinking water solutions.

Seymourpowell have developed a strong relationship with Strauss Water and will continue to work with them in the future

SIMON RUCKER Associate Director at Seymourpowell

We all know that really good designers somehow think differently about new products from you and me. But just exactly what does this difference consist of?

thinking about people as consumers immediately dehumanizes them and makes it harder to empathize. Secondly, good designers like observing – really looking at what people do rather than simply relying on what they say they do. As Paul Smith once explained, when asked where he got his ideas from: “You and I could walk down the street together and look at the same things, but I’d SEE ten times more than you would.” Thirdly, they bring expertise in other categories and industries to bear on problems in others. They pull together threads from different functions, disciplines, fields, and sectors, and integrate them into a new and (the dreaded word) “holistic” understanding. Fourthly, good designers look at what might all change in the short, medium and long-term, by engaging with the best trends and forecasting intelligence. Unlike other crystal ball gazers they use this prescience to help them understand how they could bend the future, shape it to their vision. And lastly, good designers pressure test their conclusions by consulting with other cultural ‘interpreters’ from a broad range of other disciplines. INSPIRATION: They Look for What to Do Good designers want to solve problems – and this makes them want

to transform insights into inspiration. HOW? Firstly, they have the ability to visualize what has never been. As Bruce Nussbaum said in the same post, “Many firms are plagued by articulate and persuasive ‘smart talkers’ who sound good in meetings but get bogged down in abstract complexities.” Good designers are good at what I call inspirational tangibility, ‘making it real’, whether it be by concretizing with a sketch what would otherwise be abstract thoughts or so many post-its in a meeting, enabling large amounts of complex data to be understood and absorbed quickly with a diagram, or as Bruce describes it “quickly lashing together a physical or digital mockup” of a proposed solution. Secondly, good designers live and work in the future most days, immersed in the activity of actively creating and shaping their client’s future visions of new products and services. And this familiarity with fusing creativity with what’s feasible and commercial every day is what makes good designers so good at doing this consistently and better than others. Thirdly, they overcome the “not invented here…” syndrome. For new ideas to survive and indeed thrive they have to be successfully embraced by all the relevant (another ghastly word) ‘stakeholders’. Good designers can act as a translator

between functional silos as different as supply chain, marketing and R&D. ACTION: They Keep Going When good designers talk about innovation, they mean (and I make no apologies for cribbing Lord Sainsbury’s much quoted definition), “the successful exploitation of new ideas”. They don’t stop with the invention. They turn their inspirations into reality. HOW? Firstly, in the case of a new product or service, it’s unlikely to be successfully brought to market unless it can be integrated into and be supported by all the other aspects of the marketing mix: and if we’re talking new business strategy, then good designers have to understand how the new offering could and should impact (and to what degree) all the other aspects of the organization: from its structure, to its mission and culture…all the way to the business model(s) that underpin everything. Good designers don’t claim to be able to do all these things, but they do know to work with the various functions and outside resources that do. And unlike some others, they don’t leave their colleagues at the bus stop; they stay with the project until the end because nothing gives a good designer more satisfaction than being able to point to something that everyone else thinks

is the best thing since sliced bread and saying, “I did that!” Secondly, they are good at practical resolution. Bruce Nussbaum describes the problem thus, “Some of the smartest execs get bogged down in the messy process of implementation.” But again, good designers’ ability to ‘make it real’ can help resolve contradictions and find highest common denominator compromises, helping the (innovation/marketing) process move forward. Thirdly, good designers are good at iterative prototyping, refining the concept through repeated cycles and getting feedback from the right people as they go. James Dyson famously made two thousand prototypes of his bagless vacuum cleaner before he got it right. The rest, as they say, is history.

The best summary of what makes really good designers tick was a simple post by Bruce Nussbaum back in 2007 Since reading that I’ve often pondered the subject and today, I find it helpful to look at my experience of how good designers think (and do) at each stage of the innovation process: insights, inspiration, and action.

INSIGHT: They Look at What We Don’t Know Most insight, because it relies so heavily on asking consumers, only deals with improvements to known/ existing products and services (I’d like it bigger, cheaper, quicker, smaller, etc). It rarely deals with the new/never been done before – the unexpected but relevant solution. No one ever asked for Starbucks, or Walkmans/ iPods, the Internet or texting, for example – they were

truly new ideas. And no amount of consumer research gave Steve Jobs the confidence to re-imagine the music industry. Good designers aim to move beyond what you get from simply asking consumers what they need and want. First of all because they understand that most people when asked don’t say what they mean or mean what they say, but also because people often don’t know. Good designers want to unearth

what consumers can’t tell them: latent and emerging needs and motivations; actual behaviors and attitudes; and, crucially, barriers to as well as drivers of change – or simply put, what your competitors don’t also already know. HOW? Firstly, good designers don’t tend to think about consumers; they think about people and what they want and need. It’s a subtle point, but

This article was featured on the Harvard Busiiness Review blog.

I’m noticing that more agencies are claiming to have ‘storytelling’ expertise, all saying they are the new Aesop or Archer, and how they will find the ‘inner tale’ that your brand must shout to the world.
Of course, we all know how compelling great stories can be, that a great story is timeless and speaks to a deep-rooted human truth, drawing us in and arousing a myriad of emotions. That’s why they survive down the ages and why mankind continues to tell the same stories over again - Star Wars being derived from classical Greek tragedies etc. The thing with a great, moving story is that it doesn’t need to be true to be effective. Stories exist not only for entertainment and escapism, but also to teach us lessons, give us the moral guidance we need through life that helps us do the right thing. That doesn’t often happen so neatly in real life, so the construction of a story becomes a nice airtight, and somewhat predictable, way to create a point of universal understanding. Beginning, middle and end, a cast of traditional characters or ‘archetypes’, challenges and tasks, gifts and wisdom, where good triumphs over evil. We all love it, who wouldn’t? Hence the reason why so many brands are beating a path to aforementioned ‘storytellers’ in order to help them emotionally connect with consumers and sell more stuff. But what if the story isn’t really true behind the scenes? Isn’t that just a con? With the rise of social media it is increasingly impossible to control public opinion once a scandalous exposure or powerful idea takes hold. In Egypt recently, a thirty year dictatorship was overthrown by galvanised public opinion and action in the space of eighteen days. An extreme example, but what can that mean for brands, and the companies that own and operate them, if they are discovered to not be all that they claim? One observation I have made is this: many of our favourite brands are owned and operated by multi-national corporations, in turn owned by shareholders. In the constant mission to drive efficiencies, many brands, especially in a portfolio context, are actually made of the same stuff, run down the same lines, put in the same bottles and controlled by the same people. In the quest for differentiation not only from the competition, but often from their stable-mates, these brands rely on their ‘stories’: equity often plundered from the bygone days of independence, before the original company brand was absorbed. Now post-recession, brand owners are obviously concerned with maintaining value in brands they have stripped back and cost-optimized for years, by going back to the core idea that made the brand great in the first place. Rewriting its brand equity pyramid/key/compass/box/trumpet etc. and redefining the brand’s central purpose – it’s reason for being in the world. Great stuff! If it’s acted upon with truth and dedication throughout the organization – from supply chain and marketing through to usage and disposal, being an actively positive part of the community. However, the rise of even greater consumer awareness means there might be some awkward questions to answer – “Are you in business to make a difference, or simply make money?” or “Who do you serve first: ‘me’ the consumer, or ‘them’ the shareholders - with me as the patsy?” If your newly developed brand story and cause merely serve as a cynical veneer, behind which you continue to go about the business of making the most money from the least effort as usual, then surely, if your methods contradict your own story, you run the gauntlet of being found out and open to another, more honest and generous player coming along, reinventing your category and eating your lunch. If, as consumers, we’re sold on a believable story only to discover that it isn’t in fact what we thought, the disappointment can be crushing. To a once meaningful relationship it can be irreparable! Reputation is fast becoming the most important currency in the consumer’s commercial world. Who would buy from someone on ebay with only a 50% reputation? It can take many years and millions of dollars to carefully build an image that people can believe in, that they inherently trust and aspire to own a piece of, only for one piece of poor judgment to ruin everything in an instant. Just ask Tiger Woods.

And the moral of this story?
1. Be sure you can really live your story and demonstrate real desire for your cause from start to finish, in all the little hidden nooks and crannies. 2. Have every one of your people enrolled in the legacy they leave behind, not just the short term thrashing of the brand equity for the length of their assignment. 3. Identify a powerful brand guardian to be the constant conscience for the entire brand and its behaviour. Incentivise them for legacy and consumer loyalty, not simply sales. 4. Activate & innovate against your cause absolutely. We’re back in the middle-ages – if the blacksmith in the village is actually crap, everyone will know very quickly! KEVIN JOHNSON Creative Director at Seymourpowell

Please contact Tim Duncan for the full version of this thought piece:

...Designers would be given design briefs that were fairly well defined with regard to objectives, functionality, target users, markets and so forth, but they would have had minimal involvement prior to that point.
interaction and experience of use. Then there is the user - who is this and what are their needs? You then come to the product itself - what is the context for its use? Why is it needed and what affects how or where it will be used? And how will it benefit the business? Next up is the manufacture -how will it be made? Of what? And where? And what technological advancements can we learn from other industries? And, of ever growing importance, there is the environment - how can we design it to be sustainable? And what does sustainable mean? Designers need to juggle all these factors as they design a product, but how do they manage this process? One way is to break the process down into three areas of focus - clarity, vision and delivery. Clarity: The first step is to understand the space, both physical and emotional, that the product will occupy. Before you can make something better, you need to know who, what and where you are. There are various tools available to find the truths to inspire and focus our creativity in the right direction. One tool is ethnographic research, where consumers are observed on what they actually do rather than what they say they do! This is how to learn about people - their latent, as well as their real needs and emergent behaviour - within the real-life situations in which the product will be used. Another tool is brand DNA. This is the definitive expression of a brand’s design essence – both its tangible and intangible elements. It defines the relationship between product and brand, and enables consistency between user and brand. Fully understanding your brand DNA brings clarity and precision to otherwise subjective and emotional issues and embeds emotional understanding throughout the business. And finally, there are trends. It is important to understand the way the world is moving if you’re not going to be left behind, beyond the comfort of ‘your’ market. By looking at the world around you, sitting at the heart of people, society, business and technology, design involves having a full understanding of the context and relevance for new products, both now and in the future. Vision: The next step is to define what the product should be, or could be, and why - a vision for the business to get behind, where future scenarios are worked out and relevant solutions provided; and where clarity of context and the ability of the designer to envisage a better future fuel creativity, the lifeblood of design. Vision is crucial to the successful implementation of a project. It provides something tangible for the business to believe in and work towards. It gives confidence and reassurance that it is making the right decisions. And it can help the business to see beyond the way things are now, and towards a better future that can transform its long-term prospects. Delivery: Once a vision is in place and people have bought into it, the final step is to deliver on that vision; to preserve and champion its original intent and develop it into an implementable reality. This is not just a question of how it performs (aesthetics, interaction etc) but also how it works (mechanically and practically) and is to be manufactured. That means building, testing and prototyping to learn empirically and iteratively, working with partners when necessary to make it happen. This is the heart and soul of innovation - it is not enough merely to talk about innovation, or just to generate concepts around consumer insights, it has to be delivered if it is to profit the business. And that managed systematic creative process is what brings ideas to reality. A fluid, non-linear process that combines thinking with doing, inspiration with perspiration and experimentation with expertise.

Traditionally, designers would focus on the creation and embodiment of a product, whether that be a consumer or FMCG pack or product...
MICHAEL WEBSTER Associate Director at Seymourpowell

Today, there are so many competitive products jostling for attention that there is an ever urgent need for differentiation, stand out and innovation. And this is where the designer’s remit has changed. Now, design is more deeply embedded in the front end, ahead of the brief - finding new uses, new markets, new opportunities derived from consumer insights and new ways to create value and in the navigation of that whole process. Design now involves scoping, defining and coordinating opportunities, as well as embodying them - in short, innovation. Design is more than just the physical manifestation of something - there are numerous factors that need to be considered. First, there is the brand - how should that be expressed through not only the physical form, but also the

“Ethnographic research needs good observation, analysis and interpretation...” says Paula Zuccotti, Associate Director and Head of Research, Seymourpowell
The key to unlocking ethnographic research relies on this intersection, beyond just good observation and analysis. How many times have you heard companies wax lyrical about the wonders of ethnographic research but appear frustrated about the end results? “We spent time with consumers, it was amazing! But we’re still not sure what we’ve learnt…” This is what I normally hear from organisations when discussing their experiences with the methodology. Ethnography has become one of those words like ‘innovation’; companies must have it on their roster but the majority still wonder HOW they are supposed to use it. Ethnography’s ethos is spending time with consumers in their real environments, observing their interaction with quotidian objects and activities in order to make sense of the wider context of their everyday lives. It is about pure observation with minimal intervention and honest performance rather than task analysis. This is why ethnography has been more successful in informing and inspiring the design process than traditional marketing techniques. Ethnographic research has become a necessity in the field of product, packaging, interaction, brand and service design for several reasons. Firstly, it supports the need for approaching problems and briefs in a more holistic and sophisticated way - as designers we find ourselves working in more complex environments, where no product lives in isolation and a greater ecosystem needs to be taken into consideration. Secondly, ethnography also enables global organisations to reach out to consumers at a personal and local level. While user empathy and observation have always been inherent to the design discipline - we can find examples of it in products more than a hundred years old - the commercial, formalised use of ethnography within our industry dates back fifteen years. What started as a niche process within the blue chip companies of Palo Alto, San Francisco has now become mainstream. The good thing about this is that we’re now able to quote brilliant case studies; the bad thing is that everybody thinks they can do it, running the risk of losing best practices and blurring the main ethos of the process. As a result we need to re-think what we actually do and push our discipline a step higher, including not only quality observation and excellent analysis, but also good interpretations. 1. GOOD OBSERVATION The first step towards successful ethnography is to re-engage with best practices and to remember this is not about having ‘been there, bought the t-shirt’ but about good observation. Knowing what and how to observe by learning to look and think in a different way: ACTIONS BEFORE WORDS This is the fundamental differentiator to other research techniques: observation rather than enquiry, learning HOW people actually do something rather than their verbalised memories of how they think they do it. Learn from the users’ talents and ways, not from what they do right or wrong. The first mistake is to presume ‘we’ are cleverer than ‘them’. The second mistake is to presume they are wrong. We should actually be asking ourselves what are they doing and more importantly why are they doing it? As part of a research project with a major consumer electronics client, we were asked why users weren’t engaging with the business applications on their devices (e.g. calendars, reminders). Instead of reporting on the failures of the applications, we tipped the problem on its head and drew inspiration from the dialogue and interactions between the users and their personal assistants. LOOK FOR SUBVERSION Look for things that are done differently and think of them in terms of shortcuts, work-arounds, and alternative solutions. Then think about your clients’ brief and how that subversion may work within their current portfolio. Ten years ago, we discovered that one user was playing CD’s on her DVD player: what we then referred to as ‘the death of the hi-fi’. That simple example of ‘subversion’ unlocked the user’s take on device convergence in contrast to the manufacturer’s. 2. GOOD ANALYSIS The second step is thorough analysis. This involves good understanding, empathy, curiosity, and the ability to rigorously transform your learning into compelling insights. To unlock significant insights you need to take a given situation and experiment with variables, forecasting different scenarios until you find the one that works best. This exercise is a great starting point: REMOVE THE PRODUCT, CONCENTRATE ON THE NEEDS We recently did this with an FMCG food company where we mapped the five w’s (what, where, when, who, why) and more importantly the how’s of their current product in different usage scenarios (e.g. baking a cake). We then removed all the current products that served the purpose and started from scratch, designing alternative solutions. As a result, we not only managed to design better products, but also mapped out the client’s portfolio expansion having identified the need for developing new product formats. 3. GOOD INTERPRETATION This third step enables ethnographic research to transform businesses and can be found where unmet consumer needs cross with unmet business needs. This goes beyond good observation and analytical skills: we need interpreters that can take both streams of information and propose unique platforms that live at the intersection of emergent

PAULA ZUCCOTTI Associate Director at Seymourpowell Working at Seymourpowell for the last ten years, Paula is responsible for the creation and development of the ethnographic research offer, and for the success of many innovative product launches working in collaboration with the wider team

user behavior and the company’s goals and objectives. Anyone can report what they see, however finding the insights that are most relevant to a company’s vision requires thorough investigation, and a deep understanding of the clients business. Important to this is the ability to input and help redefine that company’s vision.

Please contact Tim Duncan for the full version of this thought piece:

Our trends team regularly conduct cross-cultural city visits to help our clients understand regional preferences and diversity, and to identify common global preferences.
Thoughts and insights from all trips are reguarly posted on our blog: and shared on twitter: @Seymourpowell

Image courtesy of: Design Panoptikum


PESETA A lovely shop run by friendly local designers making bags and accessories out of unused fabric and remnants. Here you can purchase either ready-made designs or bespoke pieces. Famous designers such as Marc Jacobs have already collaborated so we’re predicting a bright future for Peseta.

VALENTINE’S POP UP UP We came across this sweet little Valentine’s pop-up event called the ‘Unusual Cupid Show’ sponsored by Hendrick’s gin. While not open during our visit, a peep through the windows at it’s cucumber inspired décor has tempted us to return for a closer look!

LONGMAN & EAGLE The recently opened and much talked about Longman & Eagle, in the up and coming Logan square neighbourhood, was our absolute favourite. Featuring ‘nose to tail’ cooking in a laid back atmosphere with an extensive whisky menu, it made for a very relaxed and enjoyable dining experience. We were especially taken by the ‘flight of whisky’ concept – a sample of three tasting portions of whisky served on a wooden tray. It’s also possible to stay overnight in one of the six recently opened guest rooms, individually decorated with the same attention to detail as the restaurant.

BIG STAR This garage turned restaurant serving up very tasty Mexican fare in small tapas style portions is a fun way to spend the evening. The best way to enjoy this fabulous place is to grab a seat at the u-shaped bar in the middle of the restaurant and watch the crowd. Social and entertaining!

LILLIE’S Q Big on barbecued meats and local beers, this is another venue catering to the chilled out Chicago crowd. The place recreates traditional southern-style BBQ in a well-thought-out simple and rustic setting. Sandwiches and fries are served on metal trays and beer in sturdy jam glasses – the perfect comfort food experience!

ADAM & VAN EEKELEN This specialist vodka and gin shop is a relatively new establishment. It is the brain child of a bar owner and his Dutch girlfriend who felt that whilst it was easy to buy premium and specialist whisky and rum, there wasn’t somewhere to buy exciting or rare vodka and gin.

A recent trip to Sweden’s 9th largest city revealed an industrious past.
TANDSTIcKMUSEET In the eternal words of Bruce Springsteen “You can’t start a fire without a spark” and so it was... we ventured to Jönköping’s main tourist attraction Tandstickmuseet, The Matchstick Museum. In the 19th Century, Jönköping was the birthplace of the match – an unassuming invention but something of a godsend in the days of open fires and gas lamps. Initially matches were made by hand, a laborious and often dangerous job owing to the fumes from the phosphorous. The manufacturing became mechanised with the invention of ingenious machines, the design of which were kept highly confidential, compounding Jönköping’s monopoly on matchstick making. Ivar Kreuger became the most successful Swedish businessman of all time, a Bill Gates of his day! By expanding globally, he at one point controlled 70% of all matchstick production across the world. As designers, we were most fascinated by the matchbox label designs. There were hundreds of different designs all created by local artists - the idea being to offer choice and novelty, tailored to the multitude of export markets. Interestingly the first design featured three stars but a plethora of designs followed with three of any number of other articles – three rifles, three elephants even three mangoes. The idea was, people who couldn’t read could ask for them by picture. Have you a burning desire to visit?

RADIO JöNKöPING Another ex-factory building just a short stroll from the Tandstickmuseet is Jönköping’s Radio museum. Here lives an impressive and varied collection of radios, TVs, typewriters and calculators spanning the early DIY Marconi kits, through the days of electrical appliance as furniture right up to the pocketable present day. Walking around the two small, butpacked, rooms certainly unleashed the design geeks in us. In the modern world of touchscreens and gestural interaction, we were reminded of the pleasure and satisfaction of analogue dials, numbers, knobs and clunky paddle buttons. SP call this addictive ergonomics – and there were some fine examples in some of the exhibits on display. Some of our favourites included a Dieter Rams Braun radio, Bang & Olufsen radio and tuning desk and Swedish brand Facit’s accounting calculators with their big glossy buttons in inviting colours – some really lovely design details.

GALERIA DRUGSTORE Below a shopping centre in Av. Providencia lies an unassuming huddle of creative shops to satisfy our international design itch. Amongst fashion and creative bookstores lies Cómodo offering both international and local products and furniture pieces. BAR LIGURIA Resting our weary feet after a hard days researching, we happened to find an interesting bar and restaurant in Providencia, as well as the fantastic menu and amazing décor, we discovered that it regularly plays gigs of up and coming bands. This is the place to go if you find yourself needing a good cocktail and some good music. HALL cENTRAL On our first wander through the up-and-coming Barrio Lastarria area we stumbled across Hall Central, a studio space and store supporting young Chilean fashion designers. Opened in 2001, this is a wonderful example of a small independent design community doing it for themselves. GAM cENTRO cULTURAL GABRIELA MISTRAL The creativity carries on late into the night in Santiago too where one evening we wandered into a DJ battle and break-dancing contest at this cultural centre. Also showing was a screening of a short documentary of young female graffiti artists in Santiago. There’s definitely a proactive, energetic and creative buzz amongst Chilean youth. Full marks definitely go to the cassette-costumed break-dancer! BARRIO BELLAVISTA Downtown we explored the colourful streets of the Bellavista where most of the buildings are adorned with striking street murals. This is an area where vibrancy is literally embedded into the fabric of the walls when by night, the bars, restaurants and music venues come alive. A stop for a swift ice-cold ginger ale and delicious empanada at El Toro on the edge of the barrio continues the theme whereby leaving your mark is encouraged – on the interior walls and tablecloths.

WIRED 2011
Richard Seymour delivered a talk on the subject of ‘Immortal Design’at Wired magazine’s inaugeral conference - Wired 2011 on 13th October. Wired 2011 explores the ideas, innovations and people that are reshaping our world.

For more information or a more detailed break down of what we have been up to, please contact: Tim Duncan

Richard Seymour delivered a talk on the ‘Future of the Future’ at the World Innovation Convention in Cannes on 28th-30th September. The World innovation Convention program is designed to deliver priceless information through lively and innovative sessions, providing insights to critical issues driving the market place. The most sought after speakers are invited from key industries to share cutting-edge business intelligence with a global audience.

Richard Seymour took to the stage at the Spring TED Salon on 18th May at the Unicorn Theatre, London. Speaking on the subject of intrinsic and extrinsic beauty, Richard touched on the complex system of ideas that hit our brain before cognition, discussed the millisecond first-impression, and explored how a designer can approach this challenge. Watch Richard’s talk here on -

Richard Seymour presented at the annual PACE conference this year which took place in Las Vegas. PACE (the packaging and converting Executive forum), is an exclusive, invitation-only community of senior packaging executives who shape the direction and strategy of the packaging industry.

Richard Seymour delivered a talk at TedxOxbridge at Saïd Business School, Oxford University on 4th June. As a collaboration between Oxford’s Saïd Business School and Cambridge’s Judge Business School, TEDxOxbridge attempts to unpack business in the 21st Century to reveal new realms of possibility and deeper connections for societal transformation through the conduct of “Business as Unusual”.

Image courtesy of: BMW

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