By Design – Industrial design is driving change at Dow Corning

VIDEO: Chip Reeves, Dow Corning’s director of design and discovery, addresses IDSA’s international conference in Miami

MIAMI (Jan. 13, 4:55 p.m. ET) — What can design-thinking do for a company that is known for its technical and scientific prowess, but which is essentially clueless when it comes to industrial design? About four years ago, Dow Corning Corp. decided to find out. So far, according to one company official, it’s quite pleased with the results.

Reeves is not a designer, but has immersed himself in that world since his employer recognized it had a problem making its materials accessible to those who might use them.

Reeves recounted how Dow Corning had excellent scientific credentials, and ran a very good Web site, from the perspective of offering detailed technical specifications about its materials. “We’ve got this real cool chemistry set,” he said. But the company’s approach to marketing and selling its wide range advanced materials was typical for most materials companies, meaning it offered catalogs, technical data sheets and small sample jars of its liquids and gels.

He said that when the company set off to find a better approach, “We didn’t have design in our sights.” He said they knew their materials had great stories to tell and offered good properties. “But who cares that you can make something slippery or sticky or that you can make something stretchy or bouncy or feel good? The answer that we came to, with that internal dialogue, is that the design community cares — that’s the starting point for thinking about new material and new product concepts.”

Dow Corning then acted upon its plan by taking three steps. The company:

* Internalized design.
* Transformed how it interacted with its customers.
* Infused design more deeply into its organization.
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