Swatch Watches

Can user centred design lead to radical innovations? Don Norman and Roberto Verganti argue that the user centred design method can only create truly new things when it focuses on creating new meanings. I don’t usually post about design methods or theory, but this is fantastic stuff.

“The Japanese dominated the watch industry until the Swatch watch company revitalized the Swiss industry through yet another radical meaning change: Watches as emotion, watches as fashion. Swatch was marketed as a fashion accessory. Whereas people used to own only a single watch, Swatch encouraged them to own multiple watches just as they owned multiple shoes, belts, ties, and scarves. They encouraged their customers to change their watches to match their clothes. Although the major change brought about by Swatch was the change in meaning of a watch, this was also accompanied by technological changes, especially in the manufacturing process. Swatch reduced the parts count of watches, used new, inexpensive materials, and developed automated factories for watch assembly, allowing them to create movements at a very low cost. Within ten years, the Swatch Group became the world’s leading manufacturer of watches. The success of Swatch’s redefinition of the meaning of a watch propelled the Swiss watch industry to recovery.”

Link: Incremental and Radical Innovation: Design Research versus Technology and Meaning Change (