The third in a Ford four-part panel discussion series on ‘Design Innovation’ streamed live from the IDSA (Industrial Designers Society of America) Conference in Austin, Texas, this week.
Among the panel contributors was Ford’s Exterior Design Manager, Kevin George.
Topics for the conference included ‘the challenges of customer-led innovation’, ‘incorporating customer feedback into design’ and ‘predicting the future’.
In explaining Ford’s approach to styling and to staying ‘ahead of the game’, Mr George said the carmaker used consumers’ feedback on styling to guide future design.
"We take the words that they use to describe the car - some said "dominating", some said "accommodating". Very different. So we said, 'why don't we blend them?'" Mr George said.
Customer feedback is sought by Ford before the design process begins, and then again once the initial designs have been signed off.
Mr George said Ford sends the designers themselves into the field to talk directly to customers, even going so far as to offer up their pencils to the car-buying public and inviting them to make changes to designs.
“We went in with [a sketch] and used Photoshop and asked ‘what's wrong with it?’” Mr George said, as reported by design blog Core 77.
“Someone said ‘well, the grill is too big’, [so] now the grill is smaller. I mean, it's beautiful. They get it. It's amazing to me how astute these everyday customers are. We don't recruit people who are necessarily design aficionados.”
“For some products, we recruit the average type of consumer who might walk in the dealership and they really say things that are astonishing to me. [For example], ‘well, the proportion of the sheet metal above the wheel makes the tyre look too small’. And we're like, ‘how did you know that?’
The culture really does value design a lot more than they did when I first entered the industry.”
As for the future, George spoke about the 2015 Ford Edge in the fast-developing world of autonomous cars, saying Ford was “bridging the gap” between the customer driving the car and the car driving itself.
Modern Edge CEO Austen Angell and Dell’s Vice President of Experience Design Ed Boyd also took part in the panel discussion.
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