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Not all products deserve to exist

Posted on 22nd September 2021 in Product Design

It’s taken us a while to really find our role and purpose within the design community and the title of this blog post pretty much summarises our current viewpoint.  We’re just scratching the surface as we start to better define a set of principles that we can stand behind.

It might seem controversial for a product design agency to be turning away clients and projects given the events of the last 18 months, but we’ve got comfortable saying no to projects that we don’t believe in.

There is some method to our madness if you’ll hear us out.

As with any other agency within the product design industry, we keep a close eye on what everyone else is developing and launching.  We obviously have a passion for products and love to see innovative design that meets real world needs.  However, more recently we’ve been seeing more and more product launches where we’ve sat back and thought “yeah, it looks great… but, how is this really different from what’s already available?” or  ‘’does the world need another f*****g chair?’’

Ultimately, almost all product launches happen as a result of a need to generate revenue and profit.  We obviously don’t have anything against companies wanting to make a profit – if they didn’t they wouldn’t exist.  Neither would we.  But over the last year though we’ve turned away over 75 projects at a time when, arguably, we shouldn’t have turned any revenue opportunity away.  However, we believe we’re proof that this isn’t actually commercial suicide.  We’re still here, still profitable and working on projects that the team are passionate about.  We’re proud to say that of the 16 live projects we have on right now, each one will make a positive impact to their respective industry.

So what gives us the right to choose?  And how do we choose?

Sustainable product design

Ultimately, it is the client who chooses whether a product will be developed, not us.  All we can do is ensure that anything we do work on is going to have a real and positive effect either to their industry or the community as a whole.  Failing that, we try to educate potential clients on why their idea might be misguided or show them how it could be approached differently.  In some way, we see ourselves somewhat as gatekeepers to bad product launches, so anything we can stop slipping through the net is a win for the public.  If another agency chooses to take the project forward, that’s on them and we can be content that we did not contribute to the damage that product could have done.

We don’t have a black and white approach to deciding exactly what we work on.  It’s just a general gut feel we get after discussing the aims and aspirations with the client.  We imagine how we would feel upon the launch of the product, as well as looking back retrospectively at the end of our careers – would we be proud of that project?  Would it have made a positive impact?  If not, then the project is not right for us.

It also doesn’t matter whether the client is a start-up or a global brand, our thought process is always the same.  For example, if Joseph Joseph contacted us in order to bid for the design of a new range of contemporary kitchenware, our immediate response would be that we’d love to work with them.  Who wouldn’t?!  But first we’d need to have an open and honest discussion about what problem we are being asked to solve and be sure that we aren’t being asked to create a ‘sexy new utensil pot’ as they exist already.

Does the world need this product?

These things don’t often get discussed within the design community, but we think it’s important to share our experiences.  So let’s celebrate some of the projects we’ve turned down:

  • Collapsible tableware – The client had no interest in sustainability or doing something unique compared to the competition.
  • Generic water bottle – A classic case of “I want one like this, but bigger…”
  • Mobile phone cases – We’ve got a wealth of background knowledge on this industry, and we know for a fact that the world does not need MORE phone cases.
  • Baby bottle including timer – Another classic case of over-complicating an existing product, just to be slightly unique.
  • Dog lead – Again, the client wanted us to design something that already existed, in a heavily saturated market.

The list goes on….

To build a world that’s designed for good

We’re not saying we’re perfect (by any means) and certainly haven’t been in the past.  Our portfolio contains legacy projects that we would approach very differently today, given the chance. But all we can do is continue making decisions based on the best information we have available at the time, and continue to work with clients who are passionate about doing things differently and pushing the boundaries of their respective industries.

To build a world that’s designed for good.  That’s our new tag line and one you’ll be seeing more of when the rebrand is complete.  We like it, it feels like us.

If you are looking for an agency to partner with on your next project and are curious to know if we’re right for each other, then please do get in touch.  Our approach is working for us, it could work for you too.

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