What makes a product truly meaningful?

Designing meaningful products R1hbapm
product design podcast speakers

New products are launched every day. Some are nothing more than blips on the technological radar; others have a lasting impact that fundamentally alters the way we interact with each other and the world around us.

In our latest podcast, we gathered three design experts with 50 years of product design-driven innovation experience to talk about what makes a truly meaningful product, both today and in the future. Discover the insights they shared:

  • Creating an emotional connection: A truly meaningful product is about more than features and aesthetics. It’s about users forming an emotional connection to the product. As Tobias Skuhra stated, “A product can check all of the boxes, but if it doesn’t appeal to you, you won’t buy it.” Creating this emotional connection is challenging, and it requires a holistic approach, where the UX, the design and the services behind the product combine in a way that appeals to the heart of the consumer.
  • Five pillars of meaningful product design: When developing a new product, designers have traditionally worked with a triangle of usability, viability and feasibility. Yet, as Antonio Grillo highlighted, meaningful products go beyond this triangle and meet five specific criteria – viability, desirability, feasibility, sustainability and social responsibility. “Design only works when it seeks to achieve something good for humanity,” he stated.  
  • The importance of thinking long-term: Designers need to have a systemic view of product design, understanding how today’s product will impact tomorrow. The experts used the example of the plastic water bottle, which provides an excellent user experience for today’s consumer. It’s easy to transport and easy to discard. However, we now realize that our throwaway product culture has a negative impact on the environment. “Your good experience today might become someone’s bad experience tomorrow. This is something we have to keep in mind,” Antonio Grillo stated.
  • The designer’s changing role: The experts reflected on the way a product designer’s role has changed over the years. What started out as a mission to fulfill market expectations, soon became all about user expectations. And in the future, designing meaningful products will be about fulfilling society’s and humanity’s expectations. Product designers will need to think more about the product’s entire lifecycle, from production to disassembly, and ensure that every aspect of the product is sustainable.

To get more tips on how to go from idea to rich UX prototype, check out our best-practice guide, filled with suggestions on how to optimize each phase of the ideation and prototyping process.


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The role of physical design in digital products

With all of the focus on digital technology, does the physical design still matter? The panel believes it does, and they discussed three areas where physical design can play an important role:

  • Problem-solving: One of the keys to a meaningful product is that it solves a concrete problem. Yet how long did it take before we got a truly waterproof and robust smartphone? That example illustrates the importance of the physical and digital design needing to work together in order to become a real problem-solving product.   
  • Sustainability: Focusing on using recyclable materials will also help the physical part of the design to become relevant again. Developing smart materials that actually enhance how a user interacts with the product will also be important in the future. 
  • Voice UI: We’re surrounded by virtual voice assistants, and their physical design plays a key role in building trust, cultural acceptance and an emotional connection with the product. The appearance of these products can help users to develop an attachment to the product, even with limited physical interaction.

As we experience technological convergence, companies that take a sustainable approach to design will have a competitive advantage, and be able to create products that are meaningful today, and in the future.

Find out more

These are just some of the interesting insights on meaningful product design. Listen to the podcast to find out more about the products our expert panel believe will shape our lives over the next 10 years, plus hear their advice for aspiring product designers. 

And if you have an idea for a meaningful product, get in touch. We’re here to help you bring it to life.   

Related topics


Designing meaningful products Ralkbapm
Tobias Skuhra
Design Director at Star

As Design Director at Star, Tobias Skuhra leads cross-disciplinary product development and design projects with Star’s international clients across Health, Automotive and Consumer Electronics. Tobias has 12+ years of holistic design experience, including at IXDS(now a part of PWC) and Fluid Design. In his current role, he provides direction, management and mentorship for the design team and supports the studio’s performance and growth within the German leadership team.

Designing meaningful products Rapkbapm
Thomas Duester
Co-Founder and Designer at formfuture

Thomas is a design leader focused on product innovation within the field of industrial design and customer experience. For the past 10 years he has had the pleasure of working with exceptionally creative leaders and incredibly talented designers within some of the world’s leading innovation teams, including Philips Design in the Netherlands, the Huawei European Research Center in Munich, and Amazon Go in Seattle. Thomas is also a Board Member of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).

Designing meaningful products Ratkbapm
Antonio Grillo
UX and Service Design Director at Tangity

In his 20 years of work experience in product and service design, and design leadership, Antonio has global experience across automotive & mobility, energy, retail, banking, healthcare, and fashion collaborating with clients to help them through their transformation and innovation processes. Antonio leads the ‘Inclusive Design’ course at the Politecnico di Milano and is a strong supporter of Design Ethics and the impact of design on human beings over time.

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