Happy Birthday to Us!

Happy 4th Birthday to Fripp Design and Research
Happy 4th Birthday to Fripp Design and Research
Happy 4th Birthday to Fripp Design and Research
Happy 4th Birthday to us
We’re out celebrating our 4th Birthday tonight so plenty of hangovers tomorrow.
To all our customers, suppliers, Yorkshire Forward, Business Link, MAS (Yorkshire Fund Managers), a special thank you to Jon Harris who introduced Tom Fripp to Steve Roberts and everyone else who has come into contact with us; thank you for your continued support.

The Environmental Cost of Design

One of our team is currently on Holiday in Europe and, like most European countries, many resorts hold markets.
What she’s observed is the amount of irrelevant design being sold (colloquially we refer to it as ‘tat’). We have no issue about selling trinkets etc, but at what cost to the Environment?
Firstly there is the energy consumed to manufacture the products, then there is the energy consumed to transport the goods half way around the world; and ultimately most of the products will be then transported back to the country where people live, adding (some) weight to the mode of transport, consuming more energy.
Don’t get us wrong, we like good design for design sake (another word for Art Design) but we think good product design should consider the environmental and energy impact of the design.
On the flip side, where she is; most of the fruit and vegetables are locally produced…I guess you could consider this as ‘carbon offset’ (She says it tastes great too!)

Pulic Sector – Private Woe

A friend sent us this job application earlier today and we quote:
“xxxRecruitment – Recruitment brief. Date:Monday 17th August 2009
Introduction/background: The client is a government body that is now selling added value data services externally. The business development team of approx 40 was set up 4 years ago, staffed mostly by internal appointments. Progress and market penetration has been slow. The client now wishes to hire several experienced B2B sales managers to boost the order intake and also to mentor and coach the existing field sales team. The BD team has an established portfolio of roducts/services and modest penetration of established sectors. The aim is to win several £million of new orders in the next 6 months, focussing on existing products into existing sectors. Deals are in the range £20k to £200k per deal.
The BD staff have attended various sales training courses. What is needed now is in-field action , commercially aware, energetic and results-oriented sales experts, and mentoring/skills transfer.”

In essence this is a government body competing with private sector businesses using the taxes paid by private sector businesses; surely this isn’t right?
Our concern is that the private sector build businesses for a long term sustainable future, whereas many of the public bodies we compete with in Product Design, tend to receive specialist grants for a limited period which inevitably fade away once the funding disappears. The danger is, whilst government bodies have good intention, in trying to stimulate local economies, they are distorting market pricing which affects the very long term sustainability that the private sector creates (we are specifically concerned about Universities who replicate Product Design services).
As the old proverb says “Don’t kill the Goose that lays the golden Egg”. Government should be working with the Private sector and not competing against it.

Designers and Designers

One of our recent new recruits was put on a training course for one of the modules in Solidworks. On the course he met a fellow product designer (with a few more years experience…if you get our drift!) who was complaining about how do you distinguish a professional design company from a designer who simply designs the aesthetics but does not take into account the need to design for the real world and manufacture (we have blogged about this subject in the past).
Please do not get us wrong, we do see the role of aesthetic design, however we would argue this belongs in the realm of art rather than Product Design.
So the question is; how do you distinguish between a design artist and a product design? Surprisingly there are ways you can; and it’s nothing to do with pretty images on a web site!
For companies such as ours and other professional product design companies, there are a number of distinguishing attributes you should be looking for:
1) The company has legal copies of professional software products such as Solidworks and Autodesk Inventor; if they’re using products such as Sketch up; they’re likely to be artists, not designers. To check the legality of their software, ask the designers where they bought the software from and contact the vendor to verify it
2) Check they have professional indemnity insurance. This is not cheap to get and is only given to organisations who fulfil specific criteria
3) Ask for their company registration number. Go to companies house and quickly verify how long they have been trading for
Like we say, there is an important role for aesthetic design as an art form, but it should not be confused with the practicalities of product design.

Designed for Life?

We recently attended a conference which described different product development strategies, one of which is the “razorblade” model. Developed by Gillette, its based on the principle of virtually giving away the razor handle ensuring that consumers have to buy your razor blades (HP have a similar strategy for printers too).
We started to debate the idea of designing in obsolescence in products which got us onto the subject of the obsolescence of life itself (disclaimer…we’re not taking drugs!).
As we make huge strives in Genetics, inevitably somebody will finally discover the way to stop the ageing process altogether; which we’ve christened the ‘live forever pill’. On the face of it this may seem the ultimate goal of genetics…to cheat death altogether…but is this a good thing?
The social impact of living forever is immense beyond the one of over population. Imagine a world where you wake up in the morning, guaranteed to make it to the following night; we think this would be terrible…and here’s the reason why.
Life has risks, the one in a million chance of getting struck by lightning when out for a walk. The one in a million chance of the airliner crashing when going to your holiday destination. The less than one in a million chance of getting killed in a car crash (and even higher on motorbike). Our point is to live you have to take some sort of risk to get through and enjoy life; take away the risk…you take away the very essence of life itself.
It’s a paradox that the fact we know life becomes obsolete makes life itself enjoyable. So are there lessons in Design…we suppose that if the original mobile phone bricks were not made obsolete…we’d never have progressed to the iPhone. So, like in many other fields of design…nature tells us something about the value of obsolescence!

Communicating the Value of Design

This morning one of our Directors got the two finger salute from a driver on her way to work. This got us thinking. In the UK new parents often have a ‘baby on board’ badge stuck in their rear view mirror and, for the life of us, we cannot work out what it is supposed to mean; do they want drivers behind to go oooooor, do they want us to offer baby sitting services, are they looking for donations towards their children’s future education…we really don’t know. Although this is tongue in cheek, we suspect what it really means is “back off buddy…my most precious possession is in the back of this car!” So why doesn’t the sticker say this?
Product Design can be like this; clients can, sometimes, get very precious about their view of what a design should look like without taking into account how their customer will perceive the design and what it means to them as a customer.
The answer could be that the design should only ever be designed to meet the function it is designed for; but that fails to take into account our desire for things that look cool and are highly fashionable. We’re not saying we know the answer…but we know lots of designs we’d like to stick two fingers up at!

Darwinian Product Design?

In the past week, two people at our offices have become new parents and this has got us thinking about how remarkable life is and is it designed to be that way? Promoters of Evolution and Natural Selection make it clear that natural selection is an evolutionary process and there is no design or need for a designer; the evolution comes about when a mutation changes a physical attribute which benefits an animals survival (or not!); which is then passed on to the next generation. As this borders on areas of religion and faith we’d rather not pass comment, however it did get us thinking about the parallels between the world of product design and natural selection.
When a design goes into manufacture it is replicated many times (like reproduction in nature) and parts that are not manufactured the same as others are discarded. But unlike nature, a production line only ever produces ‘mutations’ which are inferior to the desired output. But we all know products evolve (cars, aircraft and consumer devices being the very obvious ones); so where do the positive mutations come from? Well we guess it has to be the product designers?
If you think about it, every time we do concept design for our clients, we are creating a mutation of an existing design; the client chooses the designs which meet the desired output (which is normally to compete against another product in the competitive world of commerce where the rules of survival of the fittest certainly applies!) and the others are discarded; not dissimilar to what happens in nature.
There certainly seems to be parallels between nature and the world of Product Design. If that is the case; is Product Design another name for mutant design? Are our designers all mutants (we hope they don’t read this blog…might have a mutanty (sorry can’t help the pun!) on our hands)!

The Power of CAD :- literally!!!

The author of our blog is fortunate to be currently cruising on the Queen Mary 2. A member of their family has asked the question – “How do you go about designing something as big as this?” and it occurred that, 30 years ago, you’d never have built a boat as big as this; not because of the lack of finance, materials and engineering skills but for the lack of CAD.
As you look at the lines of the ship, are staggered by its immensity and wonder how they knew to design it so it would not break up in heavy seas you realise that this was all designed and tested in computer simulations.
The fact that it does not have traditional shaft driven propellers (it has 4 pods) and the props are shaped to cut through the water as efficiently as possible (they have 8 spares bolted onto the stern!) tells you this all had to be designed on a computer.
The QM2 weighs in at 155,000 tons and is over a 1000 feet long…but this is small fry for a new boat that is planned to weigh in at 210,000 tons, take 5000 passengers and 2500 crew; hope we get the chance to cruise in that one day…all achievable because of CAD!!!

Fripp redesign money for the Design Council

We don’t normally use our blog for self promotion…but this is an exception!. Last year we were approached by the Design Council to come up with a design for money…assuming money as we know it doesn’t exist!
We were one of two UK companies selected by the Design Council for publication (http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/Documents/DCM/6DCM/DCM6_ColourofMoney.pdf). To be honest, though, the Design council only scratch the surface of what we did.
However there is a new competition sponsored by the Council looking at how to make mobile technology more secure and less desirable to be stolen as m-commerce is not starting to emerge.
We intend to enter the competition with some of the ideas we developed in this project so watch this space!