29 June 2006

Lenovo’s search for the soul of the Chinese customer

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Digital living
Introducing the winners of the 2006 Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEAs), Bruce Nussbaum writes in Business Week: “Managers everywhere are turning to rapid ethnography, usability, special materials, and aesthetics—the tools of design—to innovate.”

He then goes on to discuss the ethnographic research done by Lenovo:

“Take Lenovo. It won a gold for its Opti Desktop PC, designed for tech-centric gamers in China. Perhaps more important, it also won a gold for the design research it did for the Opti with ZIBA Design, based in Portland, Ore. That research, dubbed ‘Search for the Soul’ of the Chinese customer, helped Lenovo move beyond competing on price, where it was being hit hard by Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM in China. Lenovo and ZIBA delved deeply into Chinese consumer culture to ‘find out which design elements have meaning and value for specific groups of Chinese consumers,’ according to the idea entry form.”

“ZIBA and Lenovo spent months immersed in Chinese music, history, and objects of desire, such as cell phones, observing families as they lived, worked, and played. In the end, they identified ‘five technology tribes’ in China: Social Butterflies, Relationship Builders, Upward Maximizers, Deep Immersers, and Conspicuous Collectors, each with different needs. The Opti was designed with shapes and colors for Chinese Deep Immersers who seek escape through immersing themselves in games online.”

“Juror Don Norman (author of Emotional Design and The Design of Everyday Things) said: ‘At first the judges said ‘yuck’ to the design but then changed their minds when the research showed the Chinese didn’t want our sleek U.S. design but their own from their own culture.'”

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