Design 2.0: Products & Ecosystems

by June 8, 2006

To follow up on my previous post about Core77’s Design 2.0 event (Products and their Ecosystems: Understanding the power of context in product innovation) in San Francisco this week, here are some highlights from my notes:

The previous Design 2.0 event (held in New York) was about brand and service design innovation. This event focused on product design innovation and in particular, the ability of products to challenge or subvert an existing ecosystem or to define their own ecosystem. This includes systems of distribution, supply, usage, manufacturing, product lines, industry partnerships and more.

Diego Rodriguez, IDEO/MetaCool

  • It all comes down to great experiences; magical moments
  • Great experiences demand a great ecosystem fit. The more you can think about the broader ecosystem the better fit the experience will be
  • Desirability (human factors), Viability (business factors), Feasibility (technical factors) are all factors to consider in the ecosystem
  • Desirability is key to design thinking: it starts by being human-centered
  • Design thinking is defined by: the “mind of a child” (being innately curious open to new and different experiences) balanced by wisdom (the ability to learn from mistakes and listen to what the world is telling you).
  • Learning from the world requires building to think, which means lots of prototypes and rapid iteration.
  • Most business schools teach analytical thinking. Stanford’s d-school adds design thinking to the top of the “T” thereby creating t-shaped people: deep expertise in one area (the vertical part of the “T”) and broader, generalist knowledge in many (the top of the “T”).
  • Design thinking is the glue between the top of the “Ts”.
  • We’re biased toward action because design is about doing things
  • Tip 1: Ensure desirability for users
  • Tip 2: Balance desirability across all stakeholders
  • Tip 3: Fruit flies, not elephants; put something out quickly and learn from it

Steve Portigal, Portigal Consulting

  • Context is King: the collisions of context are ripe with innovation
  • Context guides narrative: it influences characters, and behaviors (it defines the setting of a story)
  • We crave stories: self-actualization
  • We are wired for stories: we have a neural imperative to process stories
  • There’s a cycle here: context informs design and design creates context
  • Learning about people is not innovation
  • Discover cultural context; identify what cultural norms are
  • Look for overlaps (things that don’t fit into one end or the other). These are opportunities for innovation.

Robyn Waters, RW Trend/formerly Target

  • Taoism is the connection of things that are opposite. In the Western world we stress the extremes of the opposites not what brings things together
  • Examples of opposites converging at Target: upscale discounter; expect more, pay less
  • What makes Target work: trend focused, guest focused, and design driven
  • Target had to differentiate or die as it could never beat Wal-mart on price
  • “Trend from the inside out” not “trend forward”: figure out what is important to people not what’s next
  • We are entering an era of the right brain. “MFA in the new MBA”.
  • What we can count is important. What we can’t count is vital
  • Measurement & Intuition. Left & Right brain. Embrace these “opposites”
  • Growth is a creative process not an accounting process
  • Stage 1 (preparation) Left Brain > Stage 2 (incubation) Right Brain > Stage 3 (illumination) Left Brain > Stage 4 (verification) Left Brain
  • Companies need to provide space and time for incubation

Peter Rojas, Engadget

  • Gadgets are not stand alone products anymore
  • Most companies are trying to keep control over user experience but openness is a better path to innovation especially within the complex ecosystems that exist today.
  • The biggest obstacle is getting people to change how they think about media or systems. People are tied to things that work for them.


  • Do you need to be vertically integrated to develop a successful consumer experience? In the short term yes, but long term no: openness wins out.
  • When experience isn’t good enough yet power goes to closed system; once we figure out archetypally how the ecosystem works the power shifts.
  • Designers are better trained to empathize with end users but they need to bring business folks along to overcome inherent fears.
  • You can create new context through hooks into products (APIs, etc.)
  • Change is constant; adapt or fall behind