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Fifty years ago the father of user-centered design, Henry Dreyfuss, included merchandising among a product designer’s core job responsibilities, declaring that the successful designer “accepts the responsibility of his position as liaison linking management, engineering, and the consumer and co-operates with all three.”
Merchandising can be defined as the strategy and implementation of how a product is presented to customers as they decide whether or not to adopt or purchase. It is the aspect of design that focuses on a product’s desirability (as opposed to its utility, price, usability, etc.). It is where product design and advertising intersect.
Traditionally, merchandising has been thought of as a problem exclusive to retail businesses, but in today’s interactive product design milieu merchandising goes far beyond showroom dummies and point-of-purchase displays.
In the practice of interactive design and information architecture, merchandising –- when it is addressed at all –- is usually only discussed as a challenge of usability and efficiency, and generally only in an e-commerce context. But in a world of word-of-mouth experiences, online reviews, test-drive videos, unboxing photos, and free beta products, merchandising must be built-in to the design of an interactive product, and should be considered in the earliest stages of the design process, i.e., during the information architecture development. A product’s style, voice, onboarding experience, customer support channels, long-term upgrade and “long wow” lifecycle, and the user community that forms around it, can and should be part of the product designer’s fundamental objectives.
This talk will show the history of merchandising in traditional product design, and look at practical examples of successful interactive merchandising design (as broadly defined above) both in the retail/e-commerce context and, most importantly, inherent and emergent in the designs of Web 2.0 applications and services. In short, the talk discusses how to bring a new kind of merchandising consciousness to interactive product design to help practitioners become more conscious of, and responsible for, the greater value their services bring to their businesses.
This topic will appeal to user experience designers who either (a) design applications or (b) design web sites that sell things. This includes UXDs working in both corporate or design consulting environments, but in particular it may appeal to those who are creating (or want to) their own products or services.
It addresses some topics that are important and widely discussed among user experience designers today.
Christopher Fahey is a founding partner and the interaction design practice lead at Behavior (http://www.behaviordesign.com), an award- winning New York web design consultancy focused on building compelling and elegant user experiences for business and culture. He also blogs about design, technology, culture, and whatever else he’s interested in at http://www.graphpaper.com.
At Behavior, Chris has led the user experience design strategies for clients and projects in many industries, including HBO, BusinessWeek, The Smithsonian Institution, McGraw-Hill, JPMorgan Chase, XM Satellite Radio, The National Geographic Channel, AARP, the AIGA, and The Onion. In his 14+ years as a professional interaction designer and manager, Chris’s projects have covered everything from business-critical web applications to sci-fi adventure games and artificial intelligence chatbots.
Chris is an active speaker on user experience design, and will teach at the School of Visual Arts’ new interaction design MFA program in 2009. He has also taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Brooklyn College, and the City College of New York. His internet artwork has been featured in the Whitney and the New Museum.