January 24, 2017

Virtual Reality as a Powerful Design and Development Tool

DDSTUDIO is a boutique product design firm with seasoned multidiscipline talent and a proven track record of achieving best in class product innovation. Our formula for success includes deep client collaboration, commitment to the design process and insight about the latest materials, cultural trends and emerging technologies.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are examples of emerging technologies that DDSTUDIO has explored as potential tools for our Client’s products by testing the technology internally during the Design Process. Our team quickly saw that VR and AR offer multiple benefits including: User Empathy, Deeper Contextual Understanding, Efficiencies in Concept Refinement and Client Team Alignment.

Real time Empathy (No More Fuzz)

A recent project that demonstrated the benefits of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Design Development was in the transportation industry.  The setting included a payment experience within multiple environments including some very large scale environments. David Glazier, DDSTUDIO Director of UX Strategy explains that we’ve reached a new age of Design Driven Product Development. Virtual Reality technology enabled a more accessible format for the client, designers and engineers to participate in the User Experience firsthand and develop deep “Empathy” for their customer. This immersive perspective created a collaborative platform for everyone involved creating an outcome of greater value and purpose.

Our client could be the traveler in context by interacting with the graphical user interface, paying for a ticket, and walking through the gate. The ability to observe that specific traveler’s perspective made the design decisions immediately credible.

User Experience is part of the first development engagement phase when time is spent learning about the product journey from the user’s perspective using tools such as research and observation. These insights include deeper understanding of the physical, behavioral and emotional needs, as well as identifying opportunities for important unmet needs. While these insights frequently contribute to the “aha” moment for the product or experience, the client sometimes has difficulty understanding or appreciating the “user experience” as a whole. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality help solve this ambiguity, by providing a solid framework and bridging the gap between fuzzy and understood.

Deeper Contextual Understanding

Virtual Reality enabled the DDSTUDIO team to quickly transport our client’s concept review meeting from a one dimensional, static PowerPoint presentation into a 3D interactive experience in an authentically simulated environment. We were able to walk our client through the series of concepts and explain deliberate design decisions and comparisons in real time. This clarified product attributes and modifications in context of the experience based on concrete insights learned through research in the previous phase. The DDSTUDIO team even simulated moving trains, lights and sounds into the Virtual Reality which made the experience instantly believable and actionable. The client was ecstatic!

Concept to Refinement Efficiency  

A typical product Concept Phase moves from development to refinement after a series of feedback sessions with various client stakeholder who down select to their favorite directions. Initial concepts are sketched by Industrial designers then entered into CAD software where the designer confirms the internal component layout and any other constraints from the brief.  At the same time, User experience and Interaction designers are evaluating the level of intuitive design and looking for opportunities to refine and exploit their delight.   Engineering is analyzing the enclosure concepts for mechanisms, attachments, materials and manufacturing processes. This attention to detail and implementation consideration results in models that are proportionally accurate and manufactural. By adding Virtual Reality, our client can provide immediate feedback because the Virtual Reality version is an exact replica in proportion to the surrounding environment facilitating deep contextual understanding.  (To increase the aspect of reality even more, the DDSTUDIO team offers a physical tool that allows the client to physically interact with the model moving the virtual reality to augmented reality.) The technology combination delivers a canvas for all departments to provide high level input, eliminate the need for multiple session and achieve a level of synergy that improves the overall quality in the refinement stage. Another client benefit of VR is that the design and engineering team are on hand to respond to questions about the impact any of concept modifications as they relate to budget and schedule. The client can then prioritize as a team to align with their company’s vision to confidently satisfy constraints and their customer.

Global Alignment

Virtual Reality delivers a new internal communication and alignment vehicle for our clients.  All departments in any location can experience the concepts in the same meeting and point out what’s important from their department’s perspective. Suddenly engineering understands the marketing department’s initiatives, mechanical engineering learns how the software team’s graphical user interface can enhance their functional decisions, senior management sees the synergistic exchange and is more confident to invest in the next phase of the project.

As Experience Designers, we design products and services from the human engagement perspective (users frame of reference), to identify and prioritize the user needs in context and then thoughtfully integrate the most appropriate blend of technology cultural trends and materials to achieve the most relevant “best in class” product solution.

Let DDSTUDIO use Virtual Reality to elevate the quality of your next Product Design and Development engagement and achieve “best in class” status for your next product!

December 14, 2016

DDSTUDIO Design Thinking Approach Nets GOOD DESIGN® 2016 Awards for 3 Clients

BioXP 3200 System, Orison Tower and Panel, and Hoist Mi6 Home Gym Selected for Design Excellence

SAN DIEGO (15 December 2016) – San Diego Experience Design firm DDSTUDIO has been recognized by GOOD DESIGN® for design excellence that goes beyond the product by looking at the human experience. Three innovations representing a diverse community were each awarded a 2016 GOOD DESIGN® Award: SGI-DNA’s BioXP 3200 System, Orison Tower and Orison Panel, and the Hoist Mi6 Home Gym.

The GOOD DESIGN Awards showcase the Experience Design process applied to each DDSTUDIO collaboration that puts the human experience front and center. DDSTUDIO approaches each client challenge from the ground, applying tools from Design Thinking and Lean Start-Up techniques to quickly originate concepts, user-test, iterate and refine. The DDSTUDIO process reveals human behavior and emotion then integrates context and workflow into the product/service journey to create outstanding experiences.

“We have the best jobs in the world. Each day we get to bring our clients’ visions and dreams to life,” says Charles Curbbun, Chief. “We are honored that these three projects have been recognized by GOOD DESIGN. Each represents a best-in-class solution for its category.”

The Winning Designs

Synthetic Genomics BioXp™ 3200 System


Synthetic Genomics commercialized DNA division sought to democratize the gene assembly process, allowing labs to build their own genes de novo in-house. The ground-breaking result was the BioXp™ 3200 System, the world’s first DNA printer, a machine allowing any biotechnology company or academic laboratory to create genes on their benchtop hands-free, starting with electronically transmitted sequence data. Read more about this award.

Orison Energy’s Tower and Panel




Orison Energy’s Tower and Panel Store energy and intelligently power a home or business with the first ever plug-and-play solution. Whether energy comes from the grid or solar, users can control when to store it and when to use it. Orison Founder and CEO Eric Clifton was keenly focused on the human aspect for his revolutionary battery energy storage solution and asked DDSTUDIO to help him bring that vision to life. The result is the first home battery system that simply plugs in and stores energy that can be used later for less cost. Read more about this award.

Hoist Mi6 Home Gym


Hoist and DDSTUDIO have collaborated on many commercial and consumer fitness products for more than 15 years. The Hoist Mi6 Home Gym, represents the innovation excellence, aesthetic appeal and quality that today’s consumers demand for in-home products. This gym provides a complete range of functional training exercises designed to obtain maximum results and achieve a strong and versatile body. The Mi6 is engineered to build multiple muscle groups through smooth, rhythmic, and continuous movements that support the body as it moves through life. Read more about this award.

About the GOOD DESIGN Awards

Founded in Chicago in 1950, GOOD DESIGN® remains the oldest, prestigious, and most recognized program for design excellence worldwide.

“This year’s historic 66th Good Design program,” states Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, Museum President, The Chicago Athenaeum, “recognizes the work of thousands of designers and manufacturers worldwide who have successfully undertaken the design challenge to produce the best and most outstanding design products across the globe to our large and expanding global consumers. GOOD DESIGN represents the world’s critical mass of the design and manufacturing industry representing the best consumer design ranging from the ‘spoon to the city’.”

GOOD DESIGN is presented by The Chicago Athenaeum, together with The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies as the foremost program that honor and recognizes the best design talent and the best manufacturing worldwide.

Winning products and graphics for 2016 can be viewed at the Museum’s website at www.chi-athenaeum.org and www.europeanarch.eu.

September 23, 2016

Critical Design Thinking in the Development of Medical Devices; “Funky” Does Not Mean Easy to Use

displayMedical devices are becoming a part of our everyday lives, whether to monitor, diagnose, or predict the likelihood of a disease or illness, or prevent it through healthy habits. To serve the growing number of device designers, engineers, and manufacturers in the San Diego region, BIOCOM held its annual Medical Device and Diagnostics Conference, DeviceFest 2016 on August 30 at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa. DDSTUDIO was privileged to be entrusted with the “wake-up” after lunch session. Standing out amongst weighty sessions on regulatory issues, funding vehicles and digital health technologies, Charles Curbbun and Tracy Manning led a spirited discussion on human-centered design that reminded conference attendees about the needs of the real people who use medical devices and technologies and depend on them for a healthy life.

Human Centered Design and Design Thinking in the Medical Device Development Process drive a higher return on investment. Design Thinking makes a device easier to use and more efficient. At least as important as the greater efficiency and efficacy, are the intangibles that drive acceptance. People interact better with devices they want to use and feel comfortable using. Design Thinking in medical device development places a priority on the interaction of an individual with the device.

The presentation included several successful development projects with leading device manufacturers such as TrueMed and Synthetic Genomics, and showed how product teams effectively incorporated the Design Thinking Process in their commercialization roadmaps.

presentationimage“It is no longer enough to have a ‘space age’ enclosure with digital readouts facing every direction,” according to Charles. “Making it look futuristic does not make it easier to use. We must work to delight users and help them feel that their contributions are critical to success. When people actively enjoy using the tools they have to do their jobs, they do better work. Better work means fewer mistakes, more thorough execution and as a result a more profitable outcome.”

Design Thinking begins with a deep understanding of what the client wants to accomplish. Products should reflect the visual brand language of the client, an expression to the customer of image, feel, thoughts and value. The goal is to simplify product development by focusing on objectives and desires that are important to the users of the product:

  • Approachable
  • Intuitive
  • Ready to use quickly
  • Different levels of controls for different users
  • Consistent and repeatable

Another important consideration is product esthetic. Medical device companies can be well ahead of the competition in technology and lose the battle in the market if they don’t delight the consumer. Consumers are used to the slick feel and functionality of smartphones, and they don’t tolerate anything less from state-of-the-art medical equipment. Meeting this demand requires a deep understanding of the user journey.  Using ethnographic research, designers observe users in their environment to gain empathy and discover unmet needs and opportunities.

Startups should consider and invest time  in Design Thinking activities even during the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) phase of development. An MVP may do only few things, but it needs to do them very well, so the user is delighted. Otherwise a startup can spend all of its resources chasing user experience issues during the early development phase and there will be low adoption. Charles spoke from experience when he explained to the audience that they used to approach design programs by thinking about what they wanted to start off with, doing that, then justifying what they had done with research. Today, with Design Thinking and involving the user in the design process, there are more predictable outcomes.

Wrapping up the presentation, Charles and Tracy emphasized the urgency of adopting critical Design Thinking into the design process whether for medical devices or any other products. “We [Users] are much less patient now when something doesn’t respond” said Charles. The continuing escalation in user expectations creates a market environment where companies that invest in design will win in the market.

July 29, 2016

DDStudio expands outreach by hiring human-centered design expert

DDStudio, a leader in human-centered design excellence announced a major expansion of the company’s commitment to the human experience in design with the engagement of Milt Halsted. Milt will head DDStudio’s outreach program to design-focused product-driven companies striving to gain competitive strength through user-centric product design that is elegant as well as functional and in full compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.

A veteran of BMW’s pivotal Designworks studio and market leading Phillips Plastics, Milt brings a deep understanding of user-centric design needs for multiple markets, including medical/healthcare, consumer and industrial. “We’re so very fortunate to have Milt join our team,” says Tracy Manning, Chief Revenue Officer at DDStudio. “We look forward to drawing on his deep experience to excite our design-focused client base with our unique brand of design thinking.”

DDStudio is particularly interested in engaging with product-focused companies exiting the startup/Minimum Viable Product phase to focus on new designs for discerning middle-market customers. The DDStudio approach is a holistic approach to human interaction with product coupled with the realities of conformance to government regulations and laws. Interested parties can contact Milt Halsted at 760 438 0243

DDStudio is a pet-friendly work environment. Milt’s two collies Cherokee & Lakota will also be joining our family.

June 21, 2016

4 Design Thinking Tips to Grow Your Company

Here at DDStudio we participated in several Startup Week San Diego events last week. Those conversations are recapped here.

It takes a bold will and determination to lift your idea off the ground and fight for it from conception to reality. The best way to ensure success that is embraced by your users is to leverage Design Thinking at each stage of your development. Design Thinking is the fundamental process in which business practices and endeavors are approached through a human-centered mindset; new concepts and products are filtered through the acknowledgement of what people want and need while simultaneously applying your company’s innovative toolkit to develop this new technology that can meet these socially responsible requests. By understanding the emotional expectations and desires fueling the consumer or customer, you can guarantee your business has a market and a thoughtful purpose.

Here are four ways to incorporate Design Thinking at each step:

  1. Interpreting Your Project

Before kicking off a project you want to ask tough questions to ensure that entrepreneurs understand their customer, market, cultural and technological trends and the big “WHY” when committing to their product realization journey.

Accessing design thinking will assist in the understanding of what societal issues your products are considering to help, and in what ways they may be directly approached within your business. You must agree on who the audience is and to prioritize the project within a reasonable time frame of social progress. Review the history of the product’s market, and move forward considering the modern AND future of the market for PEOPLE and what they wish to see changed or resolved. Don’t judge or debate ideas within the mindscape of your market’s typical approach. Think within a completely societal and functional context.

  1. Opportunity Assessment

Leverage strategic input in understanding your audience and what they may possibly want for innovative improvement to daily life. An opportunity assessment should include: Stakeholder Workshops, ethnographic research, empathy mapping, journey / experience mapping, market positioning, technology positioning, business model simulation.

These tools are choreographed to achieve several important tasks including team alignment, prioritized objectives, market awareness and ultimately determining customer empathy and emotional drive. You must identify the motivations of your end-users, and begin generating as many ideas as possible to identify these desires.

  1. Innovation Assessment

As your business transitions into the innovation and growth stages, the creative juices really start flowing and your team begins to implement concepts into the first phases of tangible mockups. This is where you combine, expand, and elaborate on all your team’s ideas. Design thinking will ensure you reach human based conclusions. The most practical ideas aren’t always the best, as a market practicality is usually BUSINESS oriented thinking, which often doesn’t include human oriented solutions.

Build these tools into your Design Thinking: sketches, CAD, wireframes, user flow, visuals, mock-ups, feedback loops/iteration. As mockups come together, you move closer to a finalized product stage, in which the hands-on implementation comes together.

4. Implementation Phase

Soon that brilliant, finalized concept comes together that will launch your startup into the world of market players. Within the implementation phase, concepts are refined, engineered, prototyped and prepped for low quantity/ scaled manufacturing (hardware). After all the essential prepwork, your prototype can eventually move to production.

Design thinking will ensure you gather crucial initial feedback from potential consumers, and determine if your solutions are meeting their goals. There is always room for fine –tuning, especially when you know the ins and outs of your human-centered conclusions.

DDStudio’s nimble culture and proven process compliments the spirited resilience of entrepreneurs. In determining the best strategy to grow your company from startup to success, you can trust our track record of providing superior design and engineering innovation at a level that leverages the combined team talent and turns dreams into a reality. We’re all a part of the design world, looking to push the bounds the product possibilities.

June 16, 2016

David Glazier, user experience and sound design expert, joins DDSTUDIO leadership team

SAN DIEGO (June 16) – DDSTUDIO, Southern California’s premier product design and development firm for 30 years, is pleased to announce that David Glazier has been appointed Director of UX Design and Strategy. Glazier is a user experience expert who has worked for top brands including IDEO, Intuit and Fuseproject.

“David’s passion for human centered design, sound and art, has given him a uniquely broad perspective on the importance of applied strategy. His experience across diverse industries has cultivated a skillset that speaks to the many nuances of the user experience, “ said Founder and CEO Charles Curbbun. “We are excited to have David join our team to help shape how we deliver innovative and thoughtful human centered products.”

Previously Glazier was senior interaction designer at Inuit, and held positions in UX strategy and sound design for IDEO, Fuseproject, Google Creative Lab, OUYA and Razorfish. David is an avid cyclist and lives in La Jolla with his wife and young daughter.

June 13, 2016

Design-Forward San Diego Summit 2016

The 2016 San Diego Startup Week (SDSW) brings fresh focus to the importance of human-centric Design Thinking for growing a successful company. Human-centric Design Thinking is an integral part of the innovation process, from the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) phase through funding, early growth and maturity. Early users will accept limited functionality if the product provides real and unique value. But these same early adopter users have limited patience for a bad user interface or poor customer experience. Infusing human-centric Design Thinking into the early design is necessary to keep the users engaged until they understand the product’s value to them. In presenting the value of the product to the User in a way that can be understood and appreciated, Design builds value into the product.

Critical Design Thinking adds value to the user experience physically, emotionally and aesthetically. Understanding the User’s perspective at the moment in which an interaction occurs is fundamental, and can only be realized by observation and then analysis to discover those common patterns that exist in all experiences. It is the mission of Designers to extract those fundamental needs for the user experience and ensure that the product or venue meets and serves those needs.

DDSTUDIO focuses on the phase following the first implementation of an idea, when value has been achieved and a rigorous and disciplined design process is necessary to perfect the brand identity of a product for presentation to a larger audience.

We are pleased to support our San Diego Community during Startup Week. Please join us this Thursday 16 June for the Design Forward San Diego Summit. We will be supporting the research and design salons, bringing our expert designers to help companies understand the importance of early design focus and a long term commitment to human-centric Design Thinking.

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