I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next
~ Steve Jobs
The quote above defines Louis Xavier L. industrial designer at Bombardier. Louis is working on the future of mobility. His ideas and designs are inspiring. Tweet him at @LouisXavierL
The Rapid Moon team caught up with Louis to understand what does it really take to design the future of mobility!
RM: The work that you are doing at Bombardier is path breaking. We saw the S Series project. You are imagining the future of mobility!
LX: I was not expecting any questions about the S Series! But yes, it was a great opportunity to apply the user-centric design approach and reimagine what the future of mobility would look and feel like. From the interior of the cabin all the way to the experience of walking on the tarmac and seeing your supersonic private jet, I tried to carefully design this aircraft to provide the ultimate flying experience. Obviously it will stay as a conceptual project but it still gives me very good design references that I can use for my projects.
The S Series was the beginning of a new adventure for me, since then, as you mentioned, I have been working with an amazing team of talented industrial designers at Bombardier. We are dedicated to provide the best experience to our customers by placing innovation, functionality and beauty at the heart of the aircraft.
We actually just unveiled the Global 7000 full-scale mock-up at EBACE last week. Feel free to take a look! http://louisx.co/1kGZ9jc
RM: How do you imagine the next generation mobility? What goes on in your mind when you start working on a project/ idea?
LX: That’s a really hard question to be honest! The next generation of mobility will need to answer a lot of unresolved issues that we have with the current transportation network, such as enormous parking lots filled with passive energy, major urban traffic, pollution and so on.
Maybe I can try to formulate a small answer…
I believe the future of mobility needs to slowly merge from an individualistic approach to a shared economy mindset, while preserving the key aspects of social status recognition that a car/bike/aircraft/ provides today.
Shared economy is a topic by itself, but I won’t get into it today!
As far as starting a project goes, a few key steps need to be established at the beginning. The very first step is nailing down the problem that you see. By clearly identifying the problem, you save a lot of time and false expectations! Therefore, I start every project by asking myself the right questions. What am I trying to solve? What is the source of this problem? Am I really asking the right question or am I just listing consequences of a deeper problem? It’s by trying to dig deeper into the source of a problem that you can truly innovate and change things.
RM: Do you first visualize your ideas on paper OR do you directly use softwares to give shape to your ideas on machine?
LX: As an industrial designer by training, I always take the pen and paper out when I want to explore new ideas or concepts. With a few sketch you can quickly communicate your thoughts with fellow designers without spending too much time refining details on a computer.
But if we can just go back a step, even before sketching things out, you need a strong research to set the design guidelines of your project, in order to guide your sketching conceptual phase. At that point, the goal is to learn as much as possible about the market, your brand and your product to put yourself in a creative position. However, you can only achieve this, if you know that you are solving the right problem as I mentioned earlier! If not, even if you are the world’s best creative, you will still end up with a solution that doesn’t entirely help the end user.
That being said, the software portion of the development only comes when a clear design direction has been decided. Then it’s time to consolidate all your research and conceptual phase into the development phase.
RM: While designing such complex projects, do you use lean design principles?
Of course! Collaborative design & early customer validation are always at the center of my design process, along with many other jedi lean UX tricks, such as fast prototyping. Fast prototyping is a great way to make quick iterations on a product. One of my favourite talks, by Aaron Dignan Founder of Undercurrent, was “Digital isn’t software, it’s a mindset” (http://louisx.co/1kGZbrt)
As he expresses, the idea of making fast and agile iterations on a product shouldn’t be reserved only for digital products but for physical products as well. The power of fast iteration is still overlooked in many industries that could easily take advantage of this process without significantly increasing the overall cost. In the end, you’re only just saving on further product iterations that cost way more than early iterations.
Another lean UX principle that can’t be avoided is identifying and measuring your key performance metrics.
When you have a pool of customers using your product you need to validate and gather this precious data to evolve faster. Where does your customer come from? How did he end up using your product? What’s the retention rate of your product? Did he spread the joy with his friends? Those questions aim at identifying potential source of problem related not only to the product itself but also related to the logistics of what’s around it.
Finally, if you could remember one thing today, it would be to remind yourself to constantly ask the right questions!