BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : NOVEMBER 29, 1999 ISSUE
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A DECADE OF DESIGN GOLD
Hot Seat
Aeron Chair
Designer Stumpf, Weber + Associates and Chadwick & Associates
Client Herman Miller Inc.
Few products have established themselves so strongly in the consumer's eye as the Aeron chair. Herman Miller used work-process research to build an ergonomic chair with a distinctive profile. Sales have boosted Herman Miller's market share and profits since its launch in 1994. "The Aeron chair evolved to become a design classicone of the first to successfully combine ergonomics, aesthetics, and quality manufacturing and materials," says juror Lorraine Justice.
 
Get a Grip
OXO Good Grips Kitchen Tools
Designer Smart Design
Client OXO International
The "touch-me" message of the OXO design has given OXO the market power to extend the line to an amazing 350 products. The soft wide handle was originally designed to help elderly people with arthritis to cook. The design has universal appeal, and OXO's Good Grips kitchen utensils, introduced in 1990, have 15% of the market share. "This product reminds us of the responsibility we all have to design and manufacture transgenerational, appealing products," says juror Luis Pedraza.
 
Mission Control
Palm Pilot
Designer Palo Alto Products International and Palm Computing design staff
Client Palm Computing
The Palm Pilot is a perfect example of simplified, user-centered design that delivers solutions to huge segments of the population. People bond with the Palm because it provides easy access to just a few essential features: the ones they use in real life. The Palm does what Apple's Newton couldn'tput a handheld computer in everyone's pocket or purse. It is now an essential business tool. "A home run for U.S. Robotics, which now has 72% of the world market," says juror Noel Zeller. "It is the Filofax of the '90s."
 
Sharpshooter
PowerShot Forward Action Staple Gun
Designer IDI/Innovations & Development Inc. and WorkTools Inc.
Client PowerShot Tool Company Inc.
For 20 years, the staple-gun industry was dominated by Arrow Fastener Co. Its stapler had a handle in the back that, when pushed down, shot out a staple from the front. The PowerShot Forward Action Staple Gun puts the point of action in front, making it much easier to squeeze off the staples. It even shows remaining staples. The design, introduced in 1993, boosted share for WorkTools Inc. from 1% to 20% of the staple-gun market in 18 months. "It was a creative departure from its competitors in what had been a fairly staid competitive environment," says juror Robert Hayman.
 
Video Victor
PlayStation
Designer Sony design staff
Client Sony Corp.
Can anyone imagine Sony today without the PlayStation? It provides a major share of company profits, and it's Sony's platform for proprietary software. Coming late into the video-game business, Sony adopted a simple design that made 3-D graphics easy to use. The grip was shaped for both kids and adults, and icons replaced lettered commands. The entire image of the game machine evokes a high-performance computer. "This was a brilliant product that allowed Sony to position itself as the market leader in game technology," says juror Robert Hayman. "It strategically opened up a new avenue of product and profits stream."
 
Smooth Operator
Sensor for Women Razor
Designer Gillette design staff
Client Gillette Co.
How, what, and where women shave often differs from men. A woman designer came up with a wide flat handle and a concave oval grip. Over 100 million Sensor for Women razors and 1 billion refill cartridges have been sold since its July, 1992, launch. "Producing a women's razor that is so well-designed resulted in a market explosion," says juror Noel Zeller.
 
Beat the Clock
Triax sport watches
Designer Nike design staff and Astro Products Inc.
Client Nike Inc.
Nike expanded its sports-performance brand into a new area through great product design. Along the way, it actually improved the sport of running. The Triax watch is easy to read while jogging, thanks to an oversize display. Nike launched it in November, 1998, and sold $120 million in 18 months. "A brilliant example of how expertise and creative design can diversify a company's product line," says juror Noel Zeller.
 
Chic Cars on a Budget
BMW 3 Series
Designer BMW design staff
Client BMW AG
BMW's elegant, entry-level 3 Series set a new benchmark in upmarket, midsize sedans for the '90s. It took bmw's visual brand identity and extended it into a less expensive line. The 3 Series accounted for 60% to 70% of annual sales until recently. "The bmw 3 Series communicates solid design and manufacturing," says juror Lorraine Justice. "It has carved a permanent place in auto designs that make a difference."
 
Tutti Frutti
iMac
Designer Apple Design Staff
Client Apple Computer Inc.
Product design has the power to resurrect a flailing company. Take the case of Apple Computer Inc. Its market share was falling, and the end was near. But a translucent design with wild colors, introduced in the fall of 1998, changed everything. The iMac rebranded Apple as cool and hip. The key was integrating great product design into a high-energy marketing and advertising program. "The iMac proves there is no substitute for product excitement," says juror Noel Zeller. "Since 50% of iMac customers are first-time users, it is fair to say Apple has a turnaround going for it."
 
Love Bug
New Beetle
Designer Volkswagen design staffs in the U.S. and Germany
Client Volkswagen AG
Before the New Beetle, Volkswagen's position in the North American market was weak. The Beetle design, combined with terrific advertising and promotion, changed VW's brand image dramatically. The design brings together traditional and very modern elements. "An incredible design renaissance is happening at Volkswagen," says juror Charles Jones. "The New Beetle led the way."
 
Hot Dog
Hush Puppies Branding
Designer Fitch Inc.
Client Hush Puppies Co.
A major rebranding in 1993 of the casual shoes of the '60s targeted a new generation of young consumers. The key was integrating a fresh product look with a redo of packaging and marketing. "The designers took a 'dog-tired' image and heightened consumer awareness through good, effective design," says juror Lorraine Justice.
 
Tough Talk
TalkAbout Two-Way Radio
Designer Motorola design staff
Client Motorola
Motorola's TalkAbout takes the walkie-talkie to a new level. The simple to use, rugged-looking device allows parents to keep track of their kids at amusement parks, enables skiers to keep in touch when out of sight, and permits cars to travel together cross-country. The design created a new brand for a new market. The display is easy to read and the product looks sporty. "The TalkAbout opened up a new category and has received great market acceptance and success," says juror Stefano Marzano.
 
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Introduction: A Decade of Design

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