TL;DR: Vision in Product Design — The VIP approach

I wrote this short article, for those of you out there looking for a concise description of what the Vision in Product Design (the so-called ViP approach) is all about. If you want to read a more lengthy version, with an example of it being used for a project, go here.

So… let’s get down to it!

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ViP is a design framework developed in the mid-’90s by Paul Hekkert, Matthijs van Dijk and Peter Lloyd at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. It has been used by companies as diverse as Audi, Nokia and Whirlpool.

ViP is a design approach that has three starting points:

  1. Design is about looking for possibilities, and possible futures, instead of solving present-day problems.
  2. Products are a means of accomplishing appropriate actions, interactions, and relationships. In interaction with people, products obtain their meaning. This is why ViP is interaction-centered.
  3. The appropriateness of an interaction is determined by the context for which it is designed. This context can be the world of today, tomorrow, or may lie years ahead. Future contexts demand new and different behaviors. This makes ViP context-driven.

So… why do we talk about a “framework” and about an “approach”? Well, simply because ViP is not a fixed methodology telling you what to do and when, but instead is a guideline on how to approach a design task.

With the classical view of design, a designer would receive the task to solve a certain problem by using his knowledge of the technical, aesthetical and practical aspects involved with a specific product. So he would get the task to design a new coffee maker, a new mobile phone, a new information booth, etc. This approach does not leave a lot of space for innovation, as more often than not we are dealing with products that have already seen the light in one way or another. You will end up making the N-th coffee maker, the N-th mobile phone or the N-th information booth.

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With the ViP approach, on the other hand, the designer will analyze the current status quo of a certain product, he will analyze the interactions between the product and the user and what he wants to achieve with it, and he will analyze the context in which these interactions take place. By analyzing all these aspects, the designer is now able to define a domain for his work and to better understand what kind of interactions and desired outcomes would be interesting to explore within this domain in search for innovative products.

So it’s a question of understanding what is it really that people need and the context involved, and how to fulfill this need. Instead of designing the n-th mobile phone, we could be thinking for example on how to improve communication on the go and which interaction factors play a role. This way, we can truly come across innovative ideas, instead of building upon old cliche’s.

Another interesting issue with ViP is that its outcome does not necessarily have to be a “product” in the sense of a physical device, but it can be applied to management, development of services, architecture, and many other domains.

But OK, this is a very general description of what ViP is all about. I suggest you download the following PDF with a more detailed explanation of the approach and how to implement it:

Or, as I mentioned before, go here and read a detailed article of how, together with a team, we used the approach on a project.

Enjoy!

Written by

I’m a Colombian/Dutch designer in Amsterdam, helping drive innovation and facilitating the development of award-winning products and services — www.bluehair.co

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