The Role of Design in Innovation
In the mobile, telephony and technological industry, we hear a lot about “innovation”. We are told that our products need to be innovative. We are told that we need to be and employ creative people to help us do this. But what, exactly, is innovation? Why is it important? And why is it considered to be an important hallmark of what the modern day consumer insists upon?
Innovation can be risky. There are countless examples of products that companies thought were going to be the next big thing that ended up being their last big flop. New Coke, the Segway and the 8 Track are some of the more famous examples that come to mind. But the truly great innovations, the ones that stand the test of time are those products that, in addition to offering an entirely new perspective, are beautifully designed.
At Huawei, we feel that the Ascend P6 is a great example of how vital design can be in innovation. The slimness of the device, for example, is an indication of the cutting edge technology used in the development of the phone. But great design – and great innovation – is not something that just happens. The design of the Ascend P6, for example, was no simple task: the phone went through a number of incarnations before its current, more elegant design. The Ascend P6 was initially designed with a plastic body, but the research and development team instead opted for the far more challenging metal build. This was not only for the look and feel of the phone, but for added protection of the device – beauty cannot be exclusive from strength when it comes to your phone.
The trick with innovation and design is, of course, to investigate what it is consumers are actually looking for. It is all well and good to craft a smartphone that is the slimmest on the market, but beauty needs to be balanced with functionality. For example, the Ascend P6 could have been even slimmer than its current 6.18mm ultra-slim design, but the decision was made to ensure that battery power was not sacrificed at the expense of an overly-slim design. Since battery capacity and thickness are correlated, a thinner device would result in a battery capacity of only a few hundred mAh, which would affect the customer’s experience of the phone. As it is, Huawei have managed to produce the slimmest smartphone currently available in South Africa, with a battery capacity of 2000mAh. Interestingly, more expensive devices on the market only have a capacity of 1400mAh. Furthermore, Ascend P6 offers additional functionality to assist with Battery Usage and Consumption which provides smart power saving for the end users.
Some of the greatest stories about original thought see their heroes getting their great ideas from the world around them, such as Archimedes discovering how to measure the density of an object by using water displacement as an effective measure, or Sir Isaac Newton being hit on the head with an apple and coming up with the theory of gravity. While neither of these stories may be actually true, you may find it interesting to learn that the first design draft of the Ascend P6 was inspired by the pages of a book, when the primary designer was touched by the simplicity and sense of motion when turning the pages.
One of the design features of the Ascend P6 that were developed with the end user in mind include an industry-leading 5MP front facing camera, instead of the standard 2MP version. The camera comes with a built-in optimization lens which is capable of adding special effects to a photo before it is taken, in order to make “selfies” even more stunning. You can choose from functions such as teeth whitening, eye amplification, chin sharpening and more, and the Ascend P6 has also adopted smart light compensation technology, to help take quality pictures in dim-light environments.
If an innovation is going to be workable and attractive, design is of vital importance to the creative process. At Huawei, we have always listened to our current and potential customers about their needs and wants when developing new smartphones. Our teams in Europe and Japan jointly undertake annual research into global consumer trends, specifically to be able to identify consumer points of interest in devices and technology in the upcoming year. This is in order to come up with a final product that is the best combination of price, shape, comfort and ease of use, as well as always focusing on the user interface aspect of our products. It is absolutely vital, of course, to focus on what people need and want, instead of innovating in a vacuum.
By Larking Huang, Country Director, Huawei Device South Africa