The reviews for the iPhone are coming in, and they are breathless (see below).
Rather than add to the over-the-top-hype about the gorgeous little thing, I would rather think about what lessons can be drawn from its mere existence.
I believe there are quite a few practical things to be taken away from the development and marketing of this. An education is available to those companies, corporate mangements, engineers, inventors and investors who are paying attention:
1. Committees Suck: The old joke is that a Camel is a Horse designed by a committee. As we have seen all too often, what comes out of large corporations are bland-to-ugly items that (while functional and reliable) do not excite consumers.
When a company decides to break the committee mindset and give a great designer the reins, you get terrific products that sell well. The Chrysler 300 does not looks like it was designed by a corporate committee. Think of Chris Bangle’s vision for BMW — and its huge sales spike — and you can see what the upside is in having a visionary in charge of design.
Better pick a damned good one, though . . .
2. Present Interfaces Stink: How bad is the present Human Interface of most consumer items? Leaving the improving, but still too hard to use Windows aside for a moment, let’s consider the mobile phone market: It was so kludgy and ugly that the entire 100 million unit, multi-billion dollar industry now finds itself at risk of being completely bypassed, all because some geek from California wanted a cooler and easier to use phone.
What other industries may be at risk?
3. Industrial Design Matters: We have entered a period where industrial design is a significant element in consumer items. From the VW Bug to the iPod, good design can take a ho-hum ordinary product and turn it into a sales winner.
4. R&D is Paramount: While most of corporate America is slashing
R&D budgets (and buying back stock), the handful of companies who
have plowed cash back into R&D are the clear market leaders this
cycle: Think Apple, Google (Maps, Search), Toyota (Hybrid), Nintendo (Wii). A well designed, innovative product can create — or upend — an entire market. Even Microsoft did it with the X-box;
What other companies have the ability to disrupt an entire market?
5. Disdain for the Consumer can be Fatal: As we have seen with Dell, Home Depot, The Gap, Sears, etc., the consumer experience is more important than most corporate management seem to realize. Ignore the public at your peril.
What other lessons are there for companies in the business of designing products for consumers to use?
For the moment, let’s put the iPhone aside and answer the questions above: What markets, companies, products , segments are at risk due to their poor designs? (Use the comments to answer).
Note: Some of the commenters are missing the point of the post — this is about the business of creativity and innovation.
We are not looking for a discussion of Apple in general; Off topic comments will be unpublished.