Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Who thought up famous brands?

Raise your right hand if you've stopped at Starbucks, bought their coffee beans or loaded your own swill into a Starbucks mug this month.

Raise your left if you've Swiffered your floor recently.

Now put them together in a round of applause if you have an iPod tucked in your gym bag or briefcase.

Starbucks, Swiffer, iPod - these are among the finest in recent consumer-product innovations. While the end products are highly useful, of eye-catching design, heavily branded and profitable, what you don't see immediately is how they got there.

Who came up with these ideas? What company executives recognized their value? What team put the manufacturing wheels in motion, and who developed the patent, marketing and branding processes?

Welcome to Craig Vogel's world.

Vogel, 53, is a graduate of the Pratt Institute and former president of Industrial Designers Society of America. He's also been a consultant on innovation processes to manufacturing giants such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Alcoa and Motorola.

He hoists his foot up to display shoes with noticeable Z-coil shock absorbers. These help alleviate arthritis, he explains.

He mentions this in the context of his strong belief that the aging baby-boomer generation offers some of the best product-development opportunities out there.

For example, consider the OXO GoodGrips vegetable peeler, sold at Target and other discount stores. Developed by a man whose wife had arthritic hands, the peeler has a large oval handle, a patterned grip that prevents slippage and a blade guard that adds balance to the design.

By Annie-Laurie Blair
Enquirer contributor

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