Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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The future in booster seat technology comes from kids


May 28, 2009
By Carolyn Yates

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An integrated design strategy can lead to more effective market penetration, said Luigi Ferrara, with George Brown College, presenting at the APMA-AUTO21 conference. The discussion took place as part of the AUTO21 Innovation Panel: Bringing Research to Market, and Ferrara discussed the process behind Magna’s clek booster seat, released in 2006.

“You need a product, but the product has to be about an experience,” said Ferrara. “It’s not just a product. It’s how the product situates into your life.”

Developers included Snowdon, Ferrara, faculty at George Brown College and 25 students over several years. The development process included asking the consumers directly what they wanted – not the parents, but the children. Using a template that allowed children to draw their ideal booster seat, the team interpreted the drawings and used the information to fill market gaps, resulting in 16 new booster seat features to be released over the next several years.

One of the main problems with booster seats, said Ferrara, is not disuse but misuse. Children who travel in more than one car a day might not have a booster seat in each car, and might not have someone with them who can install one correctly. Making installation simple enough that a child can – and will want to – do it was part of the process. So was getting them interested.

A lot of the design of the booster seat was not on the seat itself, but on getting kids to like it – even enough to carry it around. The team also designed a means of getting children more interested in safety through developing characters to appear in marketing materials and in an online game.

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“We used visualization, interaction and experienced design techniques to help take a technically perfect product into the marketplace,” said Ferrara. Such development would be much more restricted with a less interdisciplinary team.

The benefits of an integrated strategy include enhanced product design, comprehensive marketing techniques and best practices for commercialization.

“Design isn’t isolated any more from the world of technology; [it] isn’t isolated from the world of science,” said Ferrara.

For more information, visit AUTO21 at www.auto21.ca or the APMA at www.apma.ca.