By Silvia Guttmann, 3M lead research designer, and Anne Gold, 3M product development specialist. In her role at 3M, Silvia works with teams to align and understand user needs and market opportunities. Anne explores new technologies and product ideas to meet 3M customer needs.
Through the entire process of creating new, well-thought-out products and solutions, both design and engineering perspectives are important. For a product to be successful, these two functions need to work hand in hand, concurrently, instead of like a relay where one step of the process is completed by one function and the next by the other.
When creating a new product, we first focus on the current user experience and their pain points. Next, we conduct research, focusing on the existing market and adjacent markets, and look for inspiration that could range from industrial tools to nature. Then we apply our learnings to our product.
The lens of sustainability:
Sustainability plays an important role in our design process. At 3M, we view sustainability through multiple lenses, including materials, processes and waste. The most obvious associations with sustainability that are visible to the general public are packaging and waste and how renewable a product is.
We aim to design solutions that do more with less material, advancing a global circular economy, which is one of 3M’s three sustainability priority areas. Whenever possible, we look to design out waste and pollution.
Other areas of focus during product development include:
Of course, we also encounter and must work through challenges, like cost, complying with changing regulations around the world the availability of sustainable materials for certain applications, and available recycling/reuse options. But these are parameters that help us innovate.
Because of the diverse talent and technologies at 3M, we can approach sustainable solutions from many angles, whether it’s a product or the way we are making it or interacting with it. There is always room for improvement as in any product/material development, and we always strive for the best, most sustainable solutions.