At CBX, we come across some of the sharpest minds in a myriad of industries; from food, retail, life sciences and beyond, we’ve been able to count these industry leaders and disrupters as both clients and friends of CBX. In our new “Q&A with…” series, we turn the spotlight on them. We speak with these experts in their respective fields to get their thoughts on their industry, how technology and societal behaviors have influenced them, and their reflections on our fast-changing cultural and business landscape.
For our launch Q&A, we wanted to explore innovation and design. The public’s understanding and appreciation for design continues to skyrocket as more everyday products are being sophisticatedly and discerningly designed and packaged. From innovative tech products to household pantry items, mass awareness of design has never been higher. Names like Jony Ive and Marc Newson have entered mainstream conversations similar to how tech heroes such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are now common topics. We kick off with “Q&A with David Dombrowski,” in which we speak with David Dombrowski, Director of Industrial Design and Innovation at Pfizer to discuss the impact of design on consumer behavior and mindset.
1. From fonts to packaging, everyone seems to have an opinion these days on design. What do you believe has contributed to the recent (if you believe it is recent?) rise in interest of design?
David: Social media has proliferated design conversation and given more people the opportunity to contribute their opinions. They are exposed to more front-end aspects of design and are becoming much more aware of what they want than they realize. Our role as designers is to help them realize those wants.
2. Why do you believe the public has become more sophisticated in their design eye and what do you believe are the implications for brands?
David: I don’t necessarily think it’s the role of the public suddenly having a more sophisticated design eye, but rather a growing community of designers who are becoming more sophisticated in how they design and utilize tools to retrieve consumer input and then designing products people actually desire. Designers are continuously getting better and better at identifying what consumers want and repurposing their needs and wants into products. As a result, the public is benefiting from a far greater volume of well-designed products and services to choose from.
3. In the health care and life sciences space, what are the advantages design can provide? What are your challenges of incorporating design to customer centric benefit?
David: The landscape is changing and consumers are more intelligent than ever. Which is why the sophistication and perception of our brand and design in the OTC space is first and foremost about trust – specifically making sure our brands deliver on their promise. Did it take care of my headache- did it do what it said it was going to do?
What is changing is the dramatic increase in information and personal choice consumers now have (and expect) with regard to their healthcare. For example, the consumer approach to OTC is essentially consumers “choosing” their own health care at the shelf. Most consumers select the option perhaps their parents used to give them. They are not necessarily savvy on which will actually solve their specific problem. Because of this, I’m interested in how design can educate and inform the consumer’s health care purchasing decision. Instead of recalling a parent recommendation, how can we design packaging to impact not solely their memory structure, but educate and aid in their shopping process.
4. Having worked on design across the industry spectrum- from toys, razors and now in the life sciences category, do you see any sort of connecting thread in design?
David: With CPG, it all comes down to understanding your consumer. The mindset is the same, what’s different is the delivery. Consumers are consumers and regardless of whether it’s designing toys or razors, it’s still about approaching the process with empathy and incorporating those rich anthropological insights gained from ethnographic research. Good design always starts with listening to consumers regardless of what you’re creating.
5.What does this mean for how products are produced and packaged? And what most excites you?
David: I’m excited when brands are able to embrace change and everyone can understand its value both to the consumer and the company.
So it always starts with the search for what would truly be of value to the consumer. With that insight, we then have the ability to design and demonstrate how a package can help a consumer choose the right product. All too often the packaging and design conversation is almost exclusively about cost reduction. That’s certainly important and necessary. But for me, the most exciting opportunities for design are in value creation.
In order to drive that kind of change in the world of mass CPG, it requires you to think in terms of scale. Any proposed change to a product or package must be able to be produced at scale, and often times at many different facilities with varying capabilities. Any improvement must therefore not be evaluated through the lens of our most advanced production capabilities, but rather the lowest common denominator.
Additionally, you have to think about how to scale your message and influence within a large manufacturing organization. Only the clearest, simplest ideas and messages that are intuitive and easy to process break through. This does not mean we, Design, should not challenge the system and strive to create new and exciting offerings to our consumer.
5: CBX does a lot of packaging work and we are very much inspired by cultural cues in our process. How would you say the design culture at Pfizer, which you are helping create, plays a role in the overall business?
David: We use design to bring business ideas to life. Innovation is woven into the culture of the company. The industrial design & innovation studio is literally located in the heart of the R&D innovation facility, so there is direct line of site to all the products teams. We’re not solely learning and working from inside our walls, but outside as well. Every month, our designers and R&D colleagues get out together and do ‘shop-alongs,’ where we go out alongside consumers to watch them shop and see their perspectives on packages, products and how colors, shapes and on-pack branding and communication effect the decision making process. Ultimately, we believe that in order to think like a consumer, you have to be the consumer. Create something to satisfy yourself and you will inevitably satisfy someone else. If you love it, someone else will love it too.