Posts tagged ‘product design’

Taking collaboration in successful stride.

In building brand awareness and reaching a larger target market, collaborations have historically proved to be a successful tool and marketing strategy. One of the product categories to best utilize and execute collaborations has been footwear, particularly athletic shoes. Athletic shoes historically have been seen as a utilitarian object – used primarily for exercise, or daily casual wear. That is until they started marketing themselves as collectible pieces, similar to Carrie Bradshaw’s iconic Manolo Blahnik collection on Sex and the City.

Sneaker collecting became a mainstream trend when Nike and Michael Jordan introduced Air Jordans in 1985. Since then, most sneaker brands have experimented with various collaborations but there are three brands in particular that have been most successful in utilizing their collaboration to reach a completely new audience – Puma, Converse and Reebok.

Puma first partnered with the highly conceptual fashion designer and filmmaker Hussein Chalayan in 2008 by becoming a majority stakeholder of his business and appointing him as their Creative Director. Since then, they’ve launched Puma Black Label and have partnered with various other high profile fashion designers such as the late Alexander McQueen. The partnership with Hussein Chalayan is particularly successful in that he is able to blend his own conceptual and innovative design thinking with Puma’s sleek, minimalistic style and experiment in different materials and shapes that are non-traditional for athletic wear. This brings a more fashion-conscious and trend-oriented consumer to Puma and gives Chalayan a new ready-to-wear market to grow his own brand recognition.

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Converse has also been incredibly innovative in their collaboration partners, particularly with embracing the materiality of their shoes (they are canvas based unlike the leather or man-made materials of their competitors). They brilliantly partnered with textile and pattern experts Marimekko and Missoni. Finnish based design brand Marimekko is particularly famous for printing on rough textured fabric and bringing this very basic material into a high fashion context, which is exactly what they did for Converse. The collaboration between Converse and Marimekko combines both an iconic American brand with an iconic European brand, therefore expanding both to a global audience and it brings together high fashion, basic materials and functionality in a beautiful new product.

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Reebok just launched their collaboration with the Keith Haring Foundation, a project I was personally involved with. Reebok has been collaborated in the past with iconic artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ryan McGinness and this collection is a natural expansion and a very strategic way for them to embrace the history of the company. Reebok’s brand awareness and popularity peaked in the 1980’s and by working with an iconic artist from that period they are able to build off their impact during that era while using contemporary manufacturing methods to create shoes that really push the boundaries of both art and sneakers by having removable pieces and 3D elements. These shoes are truly collector’s pieces that are must-haves for both the art community and sneaker collectors.

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Footwear companies have really figured out how to do collaborations successfully for both brands involved. Other product categories are starting to experiment with collaborations as a marketing tool and some are doing so more successfully than others. It will be interesting to see moving forward how this strategy affects long term brand building and awareness, and how it can help brands expand their global reach.


May 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm Leave a comment

STORY: Dramatically remodeling retail.

“A Startup Store has the point of view of a magazine, but it changes like a gallery and it sells things like a store” – Rachel Shechtman, Founder of STORY.

This week, as part of the OpenCo conference that allows anyone from investors, marketers, job seekers, and curious neighbors to attend sessions at some of the most innovative companies in New York City, I was able to visit STORY. The store, located on 10th Avenue, right next to the High Line, is a retail space that changes all of its merchandise, design, fixtures and products around a different story-based theme every four to six weeks.

STORY3This month’s story was all about design. Designer Anna Karlin used the STORY space and storefront as her medium to explore the different aspects of design and to start a conversation on what is design. The store featured everything from gold Pantone iPhone cases to an on-site Barista Bot, courtesy of GE, that presents visitors with a free cup of illycaffè, complete with laser etching on the foam.

What makes STORY so innovative is that is approaching retail and merchandising in an entirely new way – combining message, marketing and products in one curated collection that never gets stale due to its changing nature. Wired Magazine included STORY in its discussion of elastic environments and how space can be better utilized and presented for the consumer that is tired of the standard warehouse store layout.

STORY2One of the biggest business problems with a model like this is that the store has to shut down for 4-10 days every month. This means nothing gets sold during that time, which for a store in Manhattan, could be a death sentence. Rachel Shechtman decided that to work around this, she would not make the store entirely dependent on profits from the products themselves. Instead, she also partners with various corporations that fit each month’s theme as sponsors (similar to way that magazines have editorials – the products, and ads – the sponsors). The sponsorships always make sense with the story that she is telling. For the story on color, Rachel worked with Benjamin Moore Paint, who were also able to bring their expertise on color into the conversation.

Another key component of STORY is actually starting discussions among its community about the current theme. STORY hosts events almost every week featuring speakers, product launches and workshops that anyone can attend. The goal is to start a dialogue around these themes and make shopping or exploring new products a collaborative and inclusive process, not simply a task to cross off your to do list.

As people have less time, they want more from their experiences. STORY is experimenting with different ways of bringing the most rewarding experiences to their customers. While doing so, they are becoming not just a destination but a resource for their visitors – to learn new skills, engage with new people and things and to come together in a collaborative and inquisitive shopping experience. I think other retailers are going to start catching on and incorporating this model into a more traditional store environment, which will make the process of shopping more rewarding on a larger scale.


May 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment

Can you measure innovation?

Today, Fast Company’s Co. Design published an article by Paul Valerio, Principal of Insights at Method (which is currently doing a whole series of articles for Co. Design). The article is called “Eight Things Stand-Up Comedy Teaches Us About Innovation” and is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek comparison between successful product innovation and stand-up comedy. In Valerio’s words, “Innovation, like comedy, is a messy, often counter-intuitive business. It’s an iterative loop of creation, feedback, revision, rejection, and creation again. Used correctly, research fuels the understanding that leads to real breakthroughs. In the wrong hands, it all but assures the death of originality.”

I believe in the value of market research and focus groups, but I also know that the best designers have excellent design intuition. You only need to remind me of the recent Tropicana rebrand and failed packaging for me to concede that research isn’t as reliable as we’d like it to be. Valerio makes this fact all the more clear by pointing out that the opposite is also true: “Herman Miller’s Aeron chair and the Seinfeld pilot bombed in research” despite both being huge successes with consumers when introduced into the market.

Herman Miller’s Aeron chair, a huge success despite poor results in preliminary consumer research testing

All that said, I still believe in research and – even more importantly – in documentation of your successful innovations. Whether it’s visitorship and membership rates, community responses and user satisfaction feedback, or how much graffiti appears on a newly built structure, clients are already trying to measure the return on their design investments (see “Prove Your Design Has Value” published January 3, 2011 in Architect magazine). In my opinion, it’s definitely time for designers to start regularly including a diversity of metrics in their project documentation as well.

Aurthur Buxton shows us the five most common colors in 28 of Van Gogh’s paintings, by relative percentage: one not-so-soft metric for starting to understand these paintings (plus it’s a great piece of art on its own)

March 3’s daily design idea is while it’s unclear how to measure innovation, measuring the effects and performance of your work is more straightforward (and it will help create credible support for your innovative-ness). So ladies and gentlemen, start your measuring!

March 3, 2011 at 11:12 am 1 comment

“Planned obsolescence with conviction.”

I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful and thought-provoking lunch with Andrew Losowsky and his friend Matt today. One of the many topics we covered was the trend of creative businesses striving more and more for greater accountability and overall awareness of their products’ lifespans.

While my knee jerk reaction in this arena is to promote investment into more expensive and longer lasting products, I was fascinated to hear about Nike’s ultra-light Mayfly Men’s Running Shoe. The shoes only last for 100 km, or roughly 62 miles. At that point, you send the shoes back to Nike to be recycled instead of dumping them in the trash, as would be the case with other short-lived products like batteries or disposable razors. So the shoes have a deliberately short lifespan (a design strategy usually called “planned obsolescence”) but waste relatively little resources, except possibly those from shipping.

Thanks to BERG London for posting about their experience with the Mayfly shoes, and to Andrew for tipping me off to it. All photos from Flickr user moleitau (aka BERG principal Matt Jones).

February 11’s daily design idea is even the best eco-friendly products must come to an end. Let’s hope that more and more used products can be handled like the Mayfly shoes!

February 11, 2011 at 8:47 pm 1 comment

Telling it like it is.

I’m a big fan of efficiency in the design process, but straight-shooting creative geniuses seem to be few and far between. To honor the ones that do exist, here are some fun examples of to-the-point creativity and design:

1. State of the Obvious (S/O/T/O)
State of the Obvious is a collection of apparel and products is by Mash Creative, a British branding and design studio. The line’s visual identity is based on extraordinarily direct communication, a rather underrepresented approach in most consumer markets right now. Pieces from the S/O/T/O collection are available to buy from:,, and

2. Bad British Architecture
Here on Daily Design Idea, I like to share and celebrate successes in the design world (as well as information and ideas that could lead to more successes!), but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t get a kick out of Bad British Architecture, written (semi-)anonymously by a blogger who proclaims “I hate how noone ever talks about how bad British architecture really is. I hate the bastards who make these buildings. So here I am, taking the piss out of them.” I don’t always agree with BBA, but the writing is pretty hysterical. The most recent project featured (which, from the pictures, does seem rather bad) is The Blade by Sheppard Robson.

image via Flickr user kpmarek

3. Good Fucking Design Advice
The site’s motto is “Because sometimes, being your own worst critic is not enough.” It’s literally just pages of tough love and funny-cause-it’s-true advice. And if all the f-bombs feel a bit intense, you could always try switching to “Family Fucking Friendly” mode.

December 17’s daily design idea is don’t let your work get over-designed or overly complicated. Check Occam’s razor for more along those lines.

December 17, 2010 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

The hours.

If you found the “Clock for Night Owl” by designer Tiancheng Luo interesting but too tricky to read, check out these other clever but right-side-up clock designs:

clockwise from top:
1. Asterisk Clock by George Nelson
2. RE-VINYL Clock in Paris style by Pavel Sidorenko
3. Hand In Hand Clock by Yenwen Tseng
4. This Clock by Barnaby Tuke and Studio Special
5. (Il)legale clock by Denis Guidone for Nava (which adjusts for daylight savings time with a simple tilt of the clock rather than by a tedious wind)

November 19’s daily design idea is have some fun with function. These five clocks are just a small handful of great examples!

November 19, 2010 at 10:11 pm 1 comment

National Design Award Design

Re-blogged from HOW blog.
Written by Megan Patrick.
Originally posted October 14, 2010.
Copyright 2010 F+W Media, Inc.

“When Smart Design accepts their 2010 National Design Award for Product Design tonight, they’ll be accepting a trophy that they designed. How cool is that?”

>> October 14’s daily design idea is let yourself design for yourself (indirectly, if you must).

October 14, 2010 at 10:23 pm Leave a comment

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