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A product in itself is not interesting

Delft University Of Technology : 22 November, 2006  (Technical Article)
Inaugural address Prof. Cees de Bont, An industrial designer's skills are crucial for also developing successful products in the future. They are pre-eminently suited to integrate relevant knowledge from the various disciplines. As society becomes more complex, and with advances in technology, this is no sinecure.
Moreover, industrial designers can use this integration to substantiate new concepts and realize new products. Prof. Cees de Bont expressed these views during his inaugural address as TU Delft professor.

The main proposition of Cees de Bont's inaugural address as professor and dean of TU Delft's Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering is that a product is not interesting in and of itself. 'A product acquires meaning in a larger context. People attach this to, for example, user-friendly products that they derive great pleasure from. The also often show their satisfaction. With an iPod, for example, people are very happy to let their white earphones be seen.'

In other words, knowledge about the user is as important for a successful product as the technology that is behind it. This knowledge for example is found on the level of ergonomics, the environment it's used in and product and market perceptions.

Industrial designers, of whom TU Delft has educated more than 3,000 of them, are pre-eminently suited to acquire this knowledge, to integrate various types of knowledge, and substantiate it in new designs.

De Bont provided new insights into the well-known example of Philips and Douwe Egberts successful Senseo coffee machine. Prior to taking up his position at TU Delft, De Bont was head of Market Research & Strategy for Philips Domestic Appliances and Personal Care and as such was ideally positioned to account for the internal factors that led to the great success of the Senseo. 'Most of the Senseo's success factors can be traced back to the subdisciplines of the industrial designer. At various times and in almost all areas Delft industrial designers made crucial contributions to the business management, product management, technological development, market research, product design, sound and packaging.'

In his closing remarks, De Bont stressed the importance of companies working together in product development. 'You also see this happening more often. Combinations of extremely different types of companies often seem to be extra interested in this. The combination of Philips and Douwe Egberts is an example of this, but more recently we have also seen, for instance, how Dell Computers and Google suddenly joined hands.'

As chairman of the Netherlands Program for Product Development's steering committee, De Bont put these ideas into practice by striving to bring together knowledge institutes and large and small companies. This includes having these organisations working together to gain better understandings of social issues, like health care and ageing, in order to achieve new integrated product solutions.
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