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Smart Design was born. In the beginning, it was a hard sell—not the designs themselves, but the idea that the needs of individual people should be involved in the development of design. Formosa was interested in “how design can affect our quality of life, improve performance, and affect behaviour.” The original Smart Design team “pulled together techniques inbiomechanics and cognitive psychology,” recalls Formosa. “This was a type of an approach that no other design group was undertaking in the U.S. at the time, so it was an early test of our beliefs about what and where design should be.” Smart Design was successful throughout the 1980s, but Formosa admits that it was an uphill battle to convince clients that design was, indeed, for everyone.
weren’t used to shopping for a potato peeler that actually felt comfortable in the hand—once the Good Grips tools caught on, the idea that everyday design is important began to take hold in the marketplace. Smart Design’s client base grew significantly, as did the company. Firms such as Ford, ESPN, Samsung, Nike, and Microsoft began to ask for Smart Design’s services, and the number of employees increased.
-Sauriol, director of brand communication, says that while most designers are detail oriented, “Someone has to make sure that the team is keeping the big picture in mind, not just the details.” That’s part of her job and Formosa’s: keeping the overall vision. She also notes that, as a leader, Formosa has the natural gift of connecting and empathizing with people, whether it is employees or potential end-users of Smart Design’s products. “Dan has the ability to make going into people’s lives and becoming part of their lives comfortable,” she observes.
-filled medical syringe that Smart Design undertook for UCB/OXO Cimzia. The medication Cimzia is a solution that relieves chronic pain in patients with certain conditions. Patients’ lives could be improved if they could give themselves the solution in a comfortable way. When the pharmaceutical maker UCB and OXO partnered to develop the new product, they went to Smart Design for help. Formosa asked his team to go straight to the patients themselves to ask them what they needed. Designers met and observed patients in their own environment, giving them a chance to express their wishes. “It can be uncomfortable, but it’s amazing how you can get to the big ideas by approaching the project his way,” says Paulette Bluhm-Sauriol.
should—be applied to a pizza cutter. “Since our focus is designing for people, then that is the common ground,” he asserts.
mind the chaos of this kind of organization—it’s how he operates. “When we have everybody thinking everything, it’s a positive sign,” he says. It’s a formula that works.
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