Designing with the Consumer in Mind

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As a design firm we make cool stuff for real people. One thing that remains true is that no matter how cool a design concept may be it has to fit a target market in order to get any traction. At Astro Studios we put the consumer first in all aspects of the design and engineering process, especially when it comes to designing automotive interiors.

Starting with the Immersion Phase, we do a deep dive into the consumer mindset. This due diligence process incorporates the demographics, geographies, applications and lifestyles of the consumers. When I say consumers I mean anyone that will be experiencing the final product; which includes drivers and passengers alike. Essentially we productize the automobile. What features make it uniquely appealing? How can the design solve problems and improve the lives of those who use it? What materials can be used for a particular application, have a premium feel, all with a modest price-tag? These questions and more get answered in the immersion phase.

The list of ideas is then vetted through a demonstration and feedback program with our partners and others who fit the profile.

Once the ideas are refined we transition into the Concept Phase. We advance ideas into drawings, models and visualizations. We allow users to experience the product for a period of time so we can get additional feedback that only comes from the real world. An example is “ski weekend” where we go through all the interactions and experiences that would take place on such an adventure to see where we can leverage the design and improve the overall experience..

The Refinement Phase wraps things up by allowing us to produce iterations quickly and enhance the branding and visual display of the product. The life-cycle of the design process is more extended and complex in the automotive industry. The process through manufacturing can take years while other consumer products such as gaming consoles and controllers may only require 8-9 months.

Our experience has been that there is also more cross-over between designers and engineers in the automotive industry requiring collaboration and a shared point-of-view. With ongoing consolidation trends the industrial design world is getting smaller so being flexible and open to other perspectives is key to any one professional’s success. Whether it’s selecting the surface materials, user-interfaces, climate control or navigation, the user experience is critical and we focus on being a good design partner to make fans out of our mechanical engineering counterparts. Ultimately, performance and aesthetics are both necessary in automotive, designing with the consumer in mind is the best approach to advancing cool ideas into cool products that solve problems and improve the lives of the consumers.

Profile photo of Kyle Swen
Kyle Swen is a founding Partner and EVP at Astro Studios, a San Francisco based design studio that focuses on merging lifestyle and technology. Over the past two decades, Kyle has collaborated with numerous diverse clients such as Nike, Electric, Herman Miller, SOL republic, KIA, Callaway Golf, Microsoft, HP, Nixon, among others.Swen’s work has garnered recognition in ID Magazine and IDSA, as well as winning numerous awards including 2 Business Week/IDSA Design of the Decade Awards, and a Catalyst Award for Business Impact. Prior to joining ASTRO, Kyle designed at Lunar and Tandem Computers (now HP) respectively.
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