Some time ago, I was working with an aquarium brand. This company was focused on selling high-tech, complex aquariums for exotic fish to experienced and dedicated fish-keepers. I started to wonder whether we could expand the customer base – after all, exotic fish were beautiful creatures and would make a stylish addition to any household!
I realised we could simplify the existing fish tank and make it more accessible to the general public. Some of the technology was necessary, as exotic fish need a high level of care to help keep them alive and happy. Despite several electrical items, such as a lamp, the filter and so on, we managed to have only one plug and one switch and we hid the remaining cables etc. in one corner of the tank. We also decided to take into account the current trends in interior design to create a beautiful, stylish fish tank, as well as a functional and user-friendly one.
We transformed a tank, which required knowledge and dedication to use and which wasn’t always very pretty to look at, to one that was easy to use and stylish – an aquarium anybody could operate and enjoy.
We ended up with a range of 3 distinctive styles and launched 2 collections a year. The results were amazing! We were able to increase the profit margin 4 times and sell twice as many tanks as we had planned to. We saw these aquariums in places where they were not seen before: on reception desks, on kitchen counters, in the middle of living rooms, and so on – and the product is still available and successful today.
A few years back, I was working with an overseas company from the DIY industry, which provided products for retailers such as Bunnings here in Australia. The CEO, a rather atypical man, said to me: “Go create something new!” After my initial surprise, I realised he had given me a carte blanche to design completely new products. After some deliberation, I decided to focus on the painting sector. Imagine a couple of designers, lurking in the paint section of Bunnings…
As well as observing our potential customers in the store and at work, I had my own DIY experience, which I will share with you, to illustrate how the lobster, this “something new”, came about:
I was renovating a house. Imagine an old house from the 14th century, at the base of a mountain in the French Alps. The walls are nearly 1 metre thick; the windows are small and scarce. I was remodelling the rooms; transforming two small rooms into a larger, single one. I pulled a wall down, and I had prepared the remaining walls, so that one couldn’t see traces of the past.
So, here I am, painting the first layer of white. I use a paintbrush and do the corners, then the roll to paint the surface of the wall. So I shift from the paintbrush to the roll, and from the roll to the paintbrush. I had lined the floor with newspaper. The pot of paint is sitting on the newspaper – and so is the paintbrush after each use. Soon enough, the paint starts spreading onto the handle of the brush. So now my hands are covered with white paint – and they are sticky.
We all have those itchy feelings on our faces at some time, don’t we? So, I scratch my face, drawing a nice white line onto my skin. But that’s not all: the paint has also spread onto the newspaper. So I step onto the patch of paint and now I move through the room with a piece of newspaper attached to my shoe! I get rid of it, just to realise later that I have designed beautiful shoe patterns on the floor – a floor I have just finished polishing by the way!
What did I see, as a Designer?
I saw that there is a gap, when the painter has to put the paintbrush down and change tools. In this gap, I saw an opportunity for a new product.
Introducing: the lobster!
The lobster holds the paintbrush on top of the pot of paint, allowing the paint to drip into the pot. It adapts to most brush sizes and rolls on the market. It’s not only functional, keeping your floors, hands – and faces! – clean,but it’s also fun and quirky.
The lobster is an innovation that didn’t require heavy funding in research and development, but instead was based on personal experience and observing customer frustration. It still is a very profitable product today.
"Philippe is a gifted Industrial Designer with the rare ability of coming up with relevant concepts and strategies on one hand and the ability of leading and inspiring a cross functional team to turn concepts up into profitable products on the other hand. One is his award winning products did create a whole new trend/category within the aquarium market."
— Alain Mars
"I reached out to Philippe for advice about a product innovation I had invented, because I was unsure how to move it forward. It was such a joy to exchange ideas with a fellow 'inventor' who warned me about all thinkable pitfalls, yet was encouraging and practical in his suggestions to take it to the next level. I've got a long way to go and therefore I cherish the priceless source of information and inspiration Philippe is, as an expert in bringing innovations to the market."
— Johanna Canberra