Inside The Studio: 4sight inc
by Diane Lindquist on 09/30/2013 | 10 Minute Read
"Great innovations come from designers and consumers working together instead of designers anticipating what they want and need."
- Stuart Leslie, President and Founder of 4sight inc.
Located in New York City, 4sight inc. symbolizes breakthrough innovation around the world. They are game changers. Their team consists of revolutionary industrial designers and mechanical engineers that feed off the endless creative stimulation of beautiful New York City. I sat down with Stuart Leslie, President and Founder, and asked him a few questions about their studio.
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What is 4sight inc.'s story? How did you start and name the studio?
We spun off from the New York office of Walter Dorwin Teague Associates in 1996, when they decided to consolidate their offices in Seattle. The name my partner, Jason Machado(Vice President and Founder), and I chose to move forward with, 4sight, worked for us on many different levels: Besides starting out with 4 people and being located at 4 Columbus Circle, it mostly reflected our philosophy: if we have a vision about what people value and need before they actually see it, then we are truly delivering on the promise of design.
Speaking about philosophies, what is 4sight's design philosophy?
The focus of our design philosophy is that every great innovation/product comes from some new consumer insight, so we immerse ourselves in the consumer experience. By developing a deeper understanding of people and how they use products, we can continually create innovative new solutions for any product. We also believe that no product is ever finished or complete. As lifestyles and needs evolve, we must uncover new insights that lead to exciting new and improved products. The second part of our design philosophy is that design is a business/marketing tool: we measure the success of our designs by how we deliver profitability to clients. Great products deliver real consumer value, which translates to increased sales.
How many people do you have working at 4Sight? How big is your creative team?
Today our studio is just under 20 people: thirteen industrial designers, 2 engineers, and we just added an Insights Manager, Jessica Nichols (formally from Firefly), because obtaining/gaining insight has become so important to our work.
How exciting! Your studio is quite different from a traditional design studio. You actually work alongside with engineers. How do you engage and inspire your industrial designers and mechanical engineers to work together?
We inspire our engineers and technical team by always getting them involved gathering the initial insights on every project. When they understand first hand what we are trying to accomplish, we can work together to develop a solid product by tapping into each individual’s expertise.
Stuart, can you explain your creative process to our readers?
Our creative process is driven by our design philosophy.
We begin our process by having designers work directly with consumers to understand what they value and understand how they use the product and what they want the product to do for them. The designers then use that intel to create a form language that includes aesthetic elements and functionality for the consumer. Once that is done, we are ready for the analysis piece where all of the great consumer foundation is filtered through real world manufacturability. We involve engineers and manufacturing reps early in the process so that we are designing within the realm of what can be made, instead of creating and then figuring out how to make what we designed. In other words, it’s not blue sky creative, but really a creative process with strong considerations from manufacturing.
Great innovations come from designers and consumers working together instead of designers anticipating what they want and need.
You have come up with the most innovative package design solutions for your clients. Can you explain your process with Wrigley 5 Gum (Slim Pack), Heinz Dip & Squeeze and Miller Lite?
Gladly, but first off to clarify, we have come up with the biggest package innovations by working very closely WITH our clients. It’s a collaboration throughout. We can’t do it alone.
For Wrigley 5 Gum (Slim Pack), the big insight we uncovered is that gum is a reflection of self. It’s shared in complex social situations and it delivers a message about who we are, almost as much as the clothes we wear. Users wanted a well-designed product that also made them look good. This led us to design a new one-handed, hook-locking mechanism and an orderly, compact package, that’s slender, and didn’t get smooshed when you put it in your pocket. The package delivered significant additional consumer value which allowed for a retail price increase AND growth in sales ($500 million in sales five years after launch for 5 brand alone).
Heinz Dip & Squeeze was a great story. Our insights uncovered that consumers didn’t see one single packet as a serving size, so they were grabbing several packets at a time. Once we combined the equivalent of 3 packets into one, we were also able to deliver on convenience, control of dispensing and less mess with a dual functioning dispensing option and an iconic bottle shape that helps build brand equity and creates a halo effect around the brand.
While working on Miller Lite, we began to understand how men drinking this beer wanted themselves to be portrayed. The big surprise was that it was not purely about masculinity, confidence and strength, but also included a touch of charisma. This gave us license to create an entirely new bottle, a truly iconic glass bottle: bold and masculine, but also more exciting and interesting. It represents a revolutionary change in the category, delivering a superior drinking experience and a powerful tool to take Miller Lite celebrations to the next level.
Do you do any consumer testing as far as the projects you work on before they are released to the market?
Yes, in several stages. Here’s how we break down these stages:
- Stage 1 - Consumer insights where consumer helps us to actually create a product/package
- Stage 2 - Validation of the form language they created
- Stage 3 - Testing of prototypes for functionality
- Stage 4 - Quantitative: Testing in homes (or the location of actual use) to validate across a larger sample size of consumers.
The idea is to test with a real product in people’s hands to get a quantitative measure.
How do you handle the integration of new product as far as using the new functions you have developed within the packaging?
We do this in 2 ways: implied functionality (which influences purchase decisions) -- when someone looks at something before they buy it or use it to find out what they think it's going to do and how well it will work for them. Then actual functionality: with prototypes (which ensures repurchase) – See Stage 3 above.
Amazing. It's quite a process you have there! Out of curiosity, what are your favorites projects you have worked on and why?
I would have to say Wrigley 5 Gum and Heinz Dip & Squeeze ketchup. Wrigley 5 Gum, because for the first time in my career, my kids were actually impressed with what I do. They brought a box into school to donate to our troops overseas and their classmates thought it was the coolest thing they ever saw. Ever since then, they have taken an interest in my work and actually understand what I do.
Because Heinz Dip & Squeeze is such an ubiquitous, universal product, everyone who comes in contact with this new package values it. The fact that 4sight helped create the biggest innovation in ketchup -- something that improves the experience and that everybody values is really special and rare in what we do.
Any new and exciting projects you can share with The Dieline readers?
We have several big innovations coming out soon. All I can say is stay tuned. In the next month or so we’ll be introducing a product in a category where everyone thought it was impossible to innovate. We’ve taken a commodity and proven once again that innovative packaging can make a product more meaningful for users and more profitable for our clients.
Shortly after that we’ll introduce another exciting new product line where our research methodology changed the way our client actually goes to market with infant/kids’ products.
It's been a pleasure taking to you Stuart! Thank you for sharing your studio with The Dieline readers.
About Diane Lindquist
Diane Lindquist is the Project and Marketing Manager of The Dieline.