Thursday, September 11, 2008

Something to Consider

Two slides from Erica Eden's slide show this morning give us something to consider. Erica is a senior designer at Smart Design and one of their FemmeDen, an in-house group of women designers dedicated, as they say "to drawing connections between social, cultural, and economic changes in design to satisfy the unmet needs of women consumers."

If women have 80% of the buying power in this country, yet 85% of industrial designers are men, well, that might explain a few things about the world we find ourselves in.

Eden shared a session this morning with Marti Barletta of TrendSight Group, who specializes in marketing to women. A dynamic, wickedly funny speaker. No surprises in much of her talk for the women designers in the audience, but were the men I saw "multitasking" with their phones at least to some extent tuned in? Hope so. 

Some take-aways:

Men (and she's working with averages here, recognizing that there is a continuum) organize by prioritizing, while women organize with an aim toward maximizing. Men focus on a few top-priority criteria in deciding, for example, what jeans to buy, while for women the buying decision is a process of discovery, finding multiple options that fit the initial criteria, adding new criteria, weighing options and working toward a perfect answer. Men buy the first pair of jeans that fit the top criteria; women will look at all factors, coming eventually to the deciding factor that clinches the deal.

Designing for women is like universal design—if you design for women, you amplify the benefits for male customers as well. Key factors to keep in mind:

The Basics
  • designs must be easy to handle
  • easy to use single-handedly (consider the McLaren stroller's single-handed 5-second fold and you'll know what we're talking about)
  • easy to store; efficient use of space
  • easy to clean (machine-washable stroller liners, for example)
  • easy to understand (not because they're dumb, but maybe because women don't have the time to mess around? I'm just sayin'... Barletta said that women aren't busy, they are time starved. Indeed.)
  • pay attention to aesthetics. They spend time and money designing their living room in Craftsman Style, or Country French, or whatever, and you tell them that they've got to put a big black box of electronics in the middle of it?
  • appeal to the senses. For four of the five senses, women have more acuity, and for the fifth, sight, it's not that men have better sight, they have better depth and distance vision, while women have better peripheral vision.
  • offer "two-fers" two-for-one. Sunscreen and foundation. That kind of thing.
  • make it green. All other factors being equal, 57% of women will choose the environmentally-responsible product.
  • connect with people. Products that help people connect (Wii, for example, which allows people to play together) are big successes with women consumers.
Well there you have it. Go out there and get busy, people!

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