Vorträge & Diskussionen
Materials drive product innovation
17. Februar 2009
Keynote Vortrag, 3rd International Conference on Design Principles and Practices, Berlin
Fax machine, Hybrid motor, MP3 format, Computer, Trans Rapid: the list of the revolutionary German inventions goes on and on…but the list of economic disappointments is just as long. Even the Walkman – and I wasn’t aware of this myself – is actually a German invention….
I’ve pointed this all out any number of times and I can tell you it just kills the German businessman to hear it – the spirit of discovery, the technologists, the land of the inventor are all stricken. And ever since studies have shown that the number of patents is no longer a reliable measure of economic success, even the politicians have gotten involved and are looking for solutions. At the end of 2006 Boston Consulting had already confirmed to German industry that they had lost the prospect of successfully placing new products in important markets because they were not able to produce a marketable product from a patent fast enough.
It is no longer just enough to produce technologies and materials with functionalities in parts per thousand behind the decimal. People in the western world have everything they need for living and now long for products which will satisfy their needs even before they are able to put them into words. What we need more than ever is people who can recognize societal development and who as a result of their education and mindset have an ability that is as a rule denied to the representatives of the technological disciplines. Infatuation with technology and details is a hindrance to the success of a product. It is therefore essential that equal status be shared by the technological and the creative disciplines.
The reactions to this claim are noteworthy: so it is that the promotion of economic development no longer looks at the creative professional as just a location factor as it had for many years in the past, but rather as an important component and driving force in the innovation process. They are the ones who awake latent needs in customers and add an emotional value to the technological. If integrated early in the innovation process, designers, especially, can contribute a great deal when the development of the interrelationship of applications is being dealt with.
Then who else is going to contemplate reasonable applications for Ferro fluids, i.e. liquids that react to magnetic fields? Where can thermochrome coatings which change their transparency and colour when exposed to light have a practical use; where can cars be used that change their colour at the push of a button; where textiles that can remember the original position of their fibres? It is up to designers and engineers working together to design products for a livable future and to figure out, in addition to a technological use, socially relevant applications for new materials.