By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator
At the International Home + Housewares Show in March, the Innovation Theater in the Lakeside Center (formerly called the Housewares Design Theater) will present 20 educational programs, every hour beginning Saturday afternoon and ending Tuesday afternoon. The Theater, which was located in the Level 3 Lobby, moves to Room E350 (near the entry to the Level 3 Lobby) where experts in new product development and launch will discuss critical and timely topics in our industry. Over the next few months, we’ll introduce you to the presenters with a series of blog stories. Be sure to mark your calendars for these exciting programs! Check www.housewares.org regularly for updates on the schedule of Show events.
Inspiring Innovation: Beyond the Obvious Monday, March 12 10:30 – 11:20 am
Jeff DeBoer will speak on Monday, March 12 at 10:30 a.m. He’ll take us into new directions with “Inspiring Innovation: Beyond the Obvious.”
Sundberg-Ferar strives to create exciting “No More Porridge” products and recommends that clients “Stop trying to be all things to all people, start by being something to someone.” This Michigan design firm has delivered successful products for key companies in many categories since 1934. Vice president and principal since 1992, Jeff’s primary focus is developing strategies for clients using Sundberg-Ferar’s Genesis™ process, ensuring that companies are strategically and tactically poised to create and develop winning products. Jeff’s passion for creating emotive and functionally innovative solutions can be seen in work for industry leaders in areas such as homegoods, automotive interiors, major appliances, housewares and system furniture, to name a few. He has also worked in Europe and Latin America, converting unique cultural needs into products aimed at regional markets. Jeff holds numerous mechanical and design patents and has taught courses at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
VM: Jeff, what inspires your passion in your work or area of expertise?
JD: I’m inspired by the seemingly impossible…inventing breakthrough products where the “obvious” solutions have all been done or where new innovation paths are not apparent; my passion is solving a consumer need in a way that has never been done before.
VM: Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
JD: I wanted to speak at the Housewares Show because it represents a product category that is ripe for innovation, with immediate benefits to consumers, especially in the context of rapidly changing lifestyles and socio-economic upheaval.
VM: Tell us what you will be speaking about and how and this topic is important for Show audiences.
JD: will be speaking about inspiring innovation; the need to look beyond the obvious, with examples from recently completed work. My approach and attitude to innovating is to challenge everything that has come before, and to look for inspiration in places that create an emotional response. This is critical for the future of design in general, and specifically for a strong Housewares industry. Innovative products drive consumer desire, sales and a robust bottom line. In a weak economic climate the danger is hunkering down and maintaining the status quo. The corporate survivors will be the ones with the foresight to “shake up” the status quo and lead with innovative products.
VM: If this is your first time as a speaker at the Show, what are you expecting?
JD: As a first-time speaker, I’m hoping to raise a few eyebrows with an audience who may feel they’ve heard and seen it all with respect to innovating new products. I intend to connect with the audience and challenge them to re-think how they go about innovating new products and experiences.
VM: How does the Innovation Theater help you spread your message?
JD: The Innovation Theater is a great forum for sharing ideas, in the heart of an exciting industry show, whether you’re creating products, selling products, studying consumer behaviors or just curious–everyone can learn something new to help them in their work.
VM: What kind of impact can the speakers of the Innovation Theater have at the Show?
JD: I believe the speakers, as a group, are “glass is half full” people. They believe in the future as a better place than today. We can all benefit from a wave of optimism.
VM: What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals face in the housewares market?
JD: Adapting to the realities of shrinking disposable incomes, shrinking home sizes and consumers re-purposing used products versus buying new ones, forces product designers to rethink traditional methodologies for innovation and the products consumers will value.
VM: What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
JD: Consumers are bored and frustrated with old product solutions–they are willing to open their wallets and purses for new ideas or products that solve their problems in a better, cooler, more thoughtful way. Contrary to popular belief, mature consumers are often more open to change than younger consumers. They want lasting value that makes them feel good about their purchase decision, but also speaks to them on an emotional level; smart and cool!
VM: What is the best advice you could give someone trying to get into your area of expertise?
JD: Don’t be afraid to explore and innovate in places and ways untried by others; that is the only way to stand out in a crowded field of “me too” products and manufacturers.
Thanks to Jeff DeBoer for his insight. We look forward to his presentation Monday, March 12 at 10:30 in E350. See you there!
To learn more about the work of Sundberg-Ferar, see www.sundbergferar.com