The Art (and Science) of Holistic Product Design

Jun 1, 2023

Holistic product design starts with imagination.

It requires a designer to close their eyes and picture a user’s experience from start to finish – what mind space is the consumer in before they use the product? How does it feel in their hand? What does it smell like? Taste like? What pain points make them use it? What’s the magic of the product that makes them go wow?

Take toothpaste: it does a fine job of cleaning teeth without any flavor at all. But think what would be missing without its fresh, minty flavor. Your teeth and gums aren’t just clean at the end of brushing—they taste and feel cleaner, too.

That’s holistic product design.

A More Chocolate-y Pudding

Here’s another example that Upstream360 CEO Mike Thomas shares in his book, Agents of Change: Unleashing the Innovation of Real-Life Superheroes:

A research team placed a consumer study on chocolate pudding and gave three different pudding prototypes to three distinct groups of people to assess which was the most “chocolate-y". One group received a pudding sample that was light, almost tan in color, the next group a sample that was a medium, typical brown, and the final group a pudding that had a dark, rich almost black color. The study showed that the ratings of the flavor of the pudding correlated directly with the color of the pudding− the darker the color, the more chocolate-y the pudding. As you may have guessed, each pudding actually had the exact same flavor and differed only in color. All differences were driven 100% by the color and the perception that these colors represented. The truly amazing twist in this example? Not only were all of the puddings the same flavor− the flavor was actually vanilla!

Selling Holistic Design

Good product communication requires focusing on the “who” and “wow” as much as the “how.” It isn’t just about how the product works. It’s not good enough to know the science and statistics behind a product.

Upstream360’s process for communicating a product is similar to designing one. It starts with empathy.

We all want clean clothes, cars that work and food that fills our bellies. But without that fresh laundry scent, the roar of a Harley engine, or the dark, velvety brown of our favorite chocolate pudding, imagine how much less refreshing, exciting, and delicious life would be.

Because at the end of the day, “our enjoyment of the end benefit is almost always more driven by the experience in using the product rather than the actual end benefit itself.”

Have a product or concept that needs a story? Want to learn more about our work? Check out Upstream360 and U360 Medical for more details or get ahold of us! We’re excited to work with you.