Designing a New Daily Routine
Whether on a hot summer day or a cold winter evening, air-conditioned spaces provide a high level of comfort that heals both body and soul. This daily routine is a given. For most people, living with air conditioners and air purifiers has been routine for some time, and it was my job to design the products that made up that routine. At Daikin Design Group, our goal is to provide new and exciting experiences within the daily routine through air quality and spaces. We employ a multi-faceted approach that doesn't end simply with designing products that allow people to love the conditioned air or the atmosphere of a room―aspects that are most often not instantly noticed. We've defined the user experience as the springboard for this approach, and that is where I come in.
Air is not something you generally experience with your eyes. The adjectives associated with air―"hot," "cold," "comfortable"―vary from person to person, and these feelings are difficult to express in terms of words and values. Moreover, the value and effectiveness―what we call one's impression―can only be known as the user first uses the product, so predicting that impression in the development or design review stage is difficult. However, it is this ambiguous and uncertain air that fascinates me, as the possibilities for creating new value are infinite.
The thing to be careful about is that the new value is imagined and created from that ambiguity, so a lack of a sense of empathy will make our efforts meaningless. Based on experiences that exist in everyday life, I try to keep an open mind to have better empathy by visualizing common adjectives under a common image. Being able to develop an exciting revolutionary innovation that can shake up the routine as we know it is, I believe, the first step to creating a new way of life all together.
Discovering Inspiration in Reviewing Conventional Practices
Revolutionary innovations are those that personify perspectives and ideas that flip conventional concepts and practices, so brainstorming many ideas is often considered the first step. This, however, is easier said than done. As designers, we are required to take on the view of someone who is seeing a product or service for the first time, and through this review of what we've come to know as common knowledge we are able to generate a novel idea. By actually using and experiencing something we will not only be able to create excitement and satisfaction but also value that solves complaints and problems, all while uncovering new ideas that we can link to the design itself. I firmly believe that a flash of inspiration can be discovered simply by adopting various perspectives. We should always strive to be both someone who lives in the moment of routine and someone who looks at things from an objective point of view.
One concept of mine that is still in the idea stage is for a "deodorant tunnel" in Korean barbecue restaurants. This idea was actually born from a fairly mundane occurrence. Whenever I go to a Korean barbecue restaurant, the smell of the grilled meat clings to my clothes and hair. If there were a tunnel capable of erasing that smell instantaneously, my wife wouldn't complain that I smell like a grill when I got home. Who knows, maybe it would even get rid of the smell of cigarettes she complains about, too! Such a tunnel would also be appealing in its incredibly advanced design, enticing people to experience it for themselves.
The Essential Aspect for Brining Value to Life
As mentioned in the previous section, I believe that manufacturing is an essential aspect in the quest to embody an idea and create new value (known recently as "kotozukuri", or "value creation"). Ensuring users are satisfied is impossible without a means or component through which they can experience not only the features and performance that make up a product's high value but more so the physical matters that are not visibly noticeable, such as the atmosphere, sound, or smell, or services.
Looking back, one could argue that Daikin's manufacturing history has long been an embodiment of kotozukuri (value creation) through product development, long before the term "kotozukuri" became popular. For example, we stepped away from designing impressions from the mechanical aspects emphasized in conventional functionality and focused on creating impressions that arise through daily use beyond the time of purchase. Two examples of this manufacturing concept at work are our designer series of air purifiers that serve as an interior centerpiece, and our UX Series of room air conditioners that exhibits a never-before-seen thinness and shape that changes during operation, making it impossible not to brag about.
At Daikin, air conditioning makes up our core technologies, so I am confident that we are able to design air and space that provides new value and excitement. We have the tools to translate and visualize technology, which we can then provide to users in an easy-to-understand manner in order to instill increased interest and new, positive behaviors. I also think designers should always be aware of the kotozukuri (value creation) business model as well as more advantageous economic structures.
Developing New Value and Products through Dedication and the Continuous Drive toward Realization
In this age of diversifying needs, technological innovation, and changing social conditions, I believe diversification and novelty will be increasingly necessary for creating value. To prepare for this, value creation should be founded on collaboration among various people with diverse backgrounds, including not only designers but also engineers and scholars. Open innovation that transcends business and industry barriers is inevitable.
The customer experience and the product are inseparable. To get the most from value through kotozukuri, we must strive to generate excitement that has never before been seen, all while ensuring a certain level of compassion in the product prototypes. Even though I myself am still discovering how to create ways to emotional values and kotozukuri, I refuse to give up, and I think it is that dedication to discovery that is the most important aspect of all when it comes to creating new value.